Disclaimer: I own some fancy ornaments and these words…but paramount owns the rest.

Authors note: Thanks so much Cori for being my beta! To my SS, sorry I don’t normally write the romance. I hope it’s what you were looking for *smiles*

A Christmas at Home

It was the first holiday season in the Alpha quadrant. The first Christmas since Voyager had returned home, and Kathryn wanted everything to be just right when her family arrived. She’d had spent the last two days decorating her quant Indiana home to make it warm and inviting for her former crew. The gold’s, reds and greens made her feel as though she had walked into a house from a story book.

She had invited all of the senior staff to her house for a Christmas Eve dinner and all had said they would be happy to come. Even Tuvok was going to make an appearance. Since he was coming back to Earth from Vulcan for meetings at Starfleet anyway, he said that it would be illogical to turn down such a gathering when it seemed so important to his good friend. She smiled now at his use of logic in a situation that had nothing to do with it.

This would be the first time the entire senior staff would be together since the celebration for Voyager’s homecoming. She wanted it to be special, and perfect. That would be why, though she’d decorated the house herself, she was having the dinner catered. She wasn’t taking any chances that her less than wonderful cooking skills would ruin the evening she had so carefully planned.

Kathryn had been placing the last of the presents under the tree, when Tom and B’Elanna arrived with little Miral. Kathryn got up from the floor to answer the door, straightening her dark green, long sleeved dress as she went. It was the only thing she had that looked a bit dressy while at the same time, kept the cold in the house at bay. She still needed to adjust the environmental settings for winter.

"Admiral!" Tom said as he enveloped his former captain in a hug when she answered the door. "You look good and this place looks wonderful! It seems you’ve gone all out."

Kathryn smiled at him as she pulled out of the hug. "Thank you Tom, and please, while you are in my house call me Kathryn." She said. She reached to B’Elanna to extend the warm greeting and the younger woman returned the hug. "Thank you for coming."

"We were happy to Kathryn. Besides you haven’t had much time to spend with Miral since we’ve gotten home." B’Elanna picked the six month old up out of the stroller and handed her to Kathryn, who warmly took the child in her arms.

"She’s getting so big! Come into the living room, I have a fire started which should warm you up." Kathryn led the three of them into the warmly lit front or living room. The couple glazed around the room in awe. The whole room looked like it might have been a picture on an old twenty-first century Christmas, the glow of the fire completing the holiday ambiance.

"Kathryn the tree is beautiful, everything is beautiful." B’Elanna said. She took Miral back from Kathryn so she could get her outdoor clothing off. Tom went over to the fireplace and used the heat to warm through his now frozen hands. The walk from the transporter station wasn’t far but he was used to the mildness of San Francisco, not the cold winters of the prairies.

"It looks like there might be some snow tonight." Tom said.

Kathryn went to stand by the window waiting for some sign of her other guests. "They were calling for it, shouldn’t be too much though." After a moment, she turned her attention back to her guests and played with the little one to keep her mind from wondering when or if some guests would show.

Over the next hour, hour and a half, Kathryn welcomed the Doctor, Harry, Tuvok and Seven, who to her surprise came alone. She brewed tea, coffee and hot chocolate for everyone helping to stave off the cold of winter outside. The temperature had been steadily declining over the night, and as each person arrived they seemed to be more disturbed by the cold. Kathryn, having been used to the colds that wouldd come with spending the winter on the prairies welcomed them with a warm hug and a drink of their choice. She had forgotten how much she missed watching them interact with each other. Each of them took turns entertaining Miral, while talking about the different things that were going on in their lives.

Tuvok looked well, and seemed to have made a full recovery, or so he had told her anyway. Kathryn wouldn’t have known anything had been wrong in the first place. Even he seemed to be enamored by the baby when he took his turn holding her. Miral seemed intrigued by his ears, and didn’t seem to mind that he didn’t smile back at her when she giggled at the different ways he moved his eyebrows.

The Doctor was regaling everyone with tales of how popular he had become at Starfleet medical. For once no one seemed to mind the fact the he kept talking. As irritating as he could be she had missed listening to how excited he got about everything that he was apart of. A small part of her was jealous of the fact that her work no longer seemed to draw that kind of excitement from her.

As Harry, a lieutenant commander now, took his turn at the table giving updates about his life on Earth, Kathryn found herself once again looking out the window. Everyone was here except one, Chakotay.

She had thought for sure that he would be coming with Seven, but when she showed up alone, and stated that she had no idea where the commander was, Kathryn worried he might not come at all. They had barely talked since Voyager had returned home. Kathryn had gotten pulled into the whirlwind that was Starfleet, and found that she lost all track of time. She had sent him messages about how she was doing and the overload of work that the admiralty had poured on her, and he had returned them with simple formalities about how he was settling in and getting used to being planet side again. She had assumed that Seven had been with him through most of it. An assumption that was apparently wrong.

When she sent the invitation to him for tonight, he had returned it with a simple message: "I’ll be there". Kathryn couldn’t deny that her heart soared when she read those words, but she had tried her best not to get her hopes up.

"The snow has finally started to come down." B’Elanna said. She stood beside Kathryn, trying to figure out what her former captain was thinking about.

"It’s beautiful." Kathryn said taking a sip of her coffee.

"He’ll come. He told me he was coming."

"I miss him." Kathryn said without thinking.

B’Elanna wrapped her arm around the small woman and squeezed slightly. "It’s good to hear you say that. I know he misses you too."

Just as Kathryn was going to ask how B’Elanna knew what Chakotay was feeling, the door chime rang. B’Elanna smiled as Kathryn practically bounced to the door to answer it.

"Hello Kathryn." His smooth voice said when she opened the door for him.

"Hello Chakotay." She hugged him. He pulled her close and held her tight. He couldn’t help but taking in the powerful aroma of her perfume. "You’re late."

Chakotay laughed as he pulled away. "I’m sorry, but there were a few things I had to take care of." He placed his mittens in his pockets and placed his bag of gifts down on the bench that sat next to the door. "Plus it’s getting hard to see out there with the snow coming down like it is."

"Excuses." Kathryn laughed and took his jacket from him so she could hang it up. "Did you want some tea?"

"Actually I wouldn’t mind some coffee if you have it. It’s been a long day."

"Like I wouldn’t have any available!" She said in mock surprise. "Everyone is in the living room. Go get settled and I’ll bring it to you. I have to make sure the food is ready anyway." Kathryn left him to find his way to the group, which wasn’t hard considering the noise they were making. Harry had taken out his clarinet and was playing old Christmas carols while the Doctor sang. Because she was in the kitchen she didn’t see Chakotay place a small blue box with a gold bow on it under the tree with the other gifts he had brought in. When she came back in, he was holding the now sleeping Miral, while he sat in the rocking chair near the fire place. The loving look that he was giving the sleeping child made her heart skip a bit.

"Here you go." She said, bringing the cup to him.

"Thank you." He took the cup and sipped it right away. "Can you believe she’s sleeping with all this noise?" He laughed.

"It’s beautiful. I’ve missed seeing everyone together like this."

"We forget how good we had it out there."

She looked down at him, and he up at her. Kathryn knew that before this night was through she was going to have to sneak him away so they could catch up. There were so many questions that she needed to ask him, but first things first. She informed the rest of her guests, that supper was being served in the dining room if they wanted to head there.

Tom took the baby from Chakotay and placed her in the play-pen that Kathryn had replicated specifically for the night. Then they all took their seats around the table, Kathryn at the head of the table with Chakotay to one side and Tuvok to the other. If the food didn’t smell so good and if everyone wasn’t in such a wonderful mood, it would have reminded her of the daily briefings from their time on Voyager.

The chatting continued around the table with everyone in good spirits. Kathryn felt at home for the first time since they returned to Earth. She was happy to have her mother and her sister around again, but these people had become her family over the last seven years. Suddenly everything they had gone through in the Delta quadrant was worth it, to be sitting around this table at this time of year, listening to how happy everyone seemed to be.

After desert, everyone returned to the living room to be by the fire, while Kathryn, B’Elanna and Seven went to the kitchen to clean up some. Most of the cleaning Kathryn had planned to do in the morning, but B’Elanna insisted that she at least help with the dishes.

"Alright, I’m going back to the warm fireplace." B’Elanna said after all the dishes had been washed up.

"I concur. The cold seems to be leaking in through the windows Admiral." Seven said. "You should have someone come and update them."

Kathryn laughed. "The house is old Seven, but I think the problem is more that I have yet to adjust the environmental controls to compensate for the weather change. Plus I enjoy sitting by the fire and keeping warm."

Seven looked at her as though Kathryn’s head had just split in two. Seven would never understand the human desire for things that were not efficient. "Admiral, are you going to join us?"

"You two go on, I’ll join everyone in a minute." Kathryn said. Seven and B’Elanna left her alone in the kitchen, but not before B’Elanna shot her a knowing glance.

Despite B’Elanna and Seven’s complaints of the cold, Kathryn found her self over heating a bit. She stepped on to the patio and into the falling snow. It wasn’t as cold as it looked and the big fluffy snow flakes made everything feel magical. She couldn’t have wished for this night to go better.

"It’s like a scene from one of those twenty-first century Christmas movies Tom used to play during Christmas on Voyager." Chakotay said coming up behind her. His voice startled her and she jumped to face him. "Sorry I didn’t mean to startle you."

"It’s okay." Kathryn said. She chuckled a bit at her reaction. "I just didn’t expect anyone to come looking quite so soon."

"What are you doing? It’s freezing out here." He came up and put his arm around her shoulders, and she was warmer than ever, but couldn’t bring herself to move.

"I needed to cool down a bit, and the snow looked so inviting."

"Are you okay?" He asked, after a few quiet minutes.

"I am. For the first time in a long time I think I am." Kathryn answered. "How about you? What happened with Seven?"

Chakotay hesitated before answering the question he knew was going to come up eventually. He was actually surprised that B’Elanna hadn’t already told her what had happened. "We decided it was better to just be friends. Besides there was someone else I couldn’t get out of my thoughts." He looked down at her wondering if she would get the hint.

Kathryn felt her heart jump a bit. Too many times things had stood in the way. When they first expressed their feelings for each other it was three days before they were rescued from New Earth. When they got home and she was actually able to allow herself a relationship with him, he was with Seven. That didn’t include all the other missteps they had through out the five years between New Earth, and the time they reached the Alpha quadrant. Still those deep brown eyes held promise that this New Year would be a happy one.

"If you’re saying what I think you’re saying, then I’ve waited a long time to hear those words." She said.

Chakotay turned her so that she was facing him. He ran his fingers through her hair, thankful that she had started to let it grow out again. "I think I forgot there for a minute, but my heart has only ever belonged to you Kathryn."

Kathryn stood there in a stunned silence. There was only one thing she could think of doing. She lifted her self on to her tip toes and kissed his lips softly.

"Excuse me." Tom was standing in the doorway when Kathryn and Chakotay broke from their kiss. "If you two wouldn’t mind, some of us have gifts we would like to share." Tom had the biggest smile on his face.

"Alright Tom, we’re on our way." Kathryn could feel the red starting to rise in her cheeks, but calmed her embarrassment by remembering she wasn’t anyone’s captain anymore.

Tom left the two of them on the patio, still with the smile on his face.

Chakotay started to chuckle when he was out of sight. "Well then, I know what they’ll be talking about now."

"Let them. It’s not like it would be a new conversation." She leaned up and kissed Chakotay’s surprised face once more before leading him back into the living room.

Kathryn had expected everyone’s eyes to be on her and Chakotay, but to her surprise no one even looked up when the two of them entered holding hands. Any tension she was feeling about the situation quickly left her

She went to the tree and proceeded to play Santa, handing out the little gifts they had gotten each other. Once everyone had opened their gifts she noticed a small blue package wrapped under the tree. It said "Kathryn" on the tag. As far as she knew she had opened the gifts from everyone that was there. The Doctor had framed a beautiful picture that he had taken of the whole crew that was taken sometime in their first year on Voyager. Tuvok had given her a small package of her favorite Vulcan tea. She had gotten a lovely green knitted scarf from B’Elanna, Tom and Miral. Harry had picked out a selection of wonderful coffee chocolates, hoping that she would enjoy a combination of two of her favorite things. Seven had given her a crystal Voyager ornament for her tree. She said she had commissioned someone to make it for her, so that Voyager would always be around during the holiday. It touched her deeply and she couldn’t hold back a tear that had formed. Kathryn hugged her former protégé, and marveled at how far she had come to think of something so personal. It wasn’t that long ago that she had to convince Seven that the holiday season wasn’t irrelevant and distracting from the work that needed to be done around the ship. From Chakotay she had gotten a carving he had done of a wolf in birds’ eye maple. The grain in the wood made for an almost hypnotic pattern on the carving.

Kathryn lifted the lid of the box and found a hand written note that read: "There is no expectation, but it is Christmas and it doesn’t hurt to check." Confused, she placed the note aside and lifted a small pewter box from the gift box. In it, she found a white gold ring with the perfect emerald in the centre. It took her breath away and the tears started forming before she even noticed that on the inside of the lid were the words: Marry me ~ Chakotay. She looked up at him and found him watching her every movement. He smiled at her when she met his eyes and the tears just started to free flow. She got to her feet, legs shaking, and stepped over Harry’s legs to get to him. She pulled him down to her and kissed him with all the passion she could muster, barely noticing the clapping that was coming from behind her.

"My guess is that’s a yes old man." Tom was the first to shake Chakotay’s hand, as Kathryn slipped on the ring. B’Elanna was right behind him in congratulating the couple.

"Wait a minute you two knew about this?" Kathryn’s eyes widened in disbelief.

Even Seven was smiling now. "We all did Admiral…Kathryn. He wanted our…approval." She was next in line to hug Kathryn after B’Elanna and Tom had each given her their bear hugs.

"Indeed. He approached me two weeks ago to make sure that he had my approval in asking you, and asked if I thought that it was a wise course of action " Tuvok informed her. If Kathryn didn’t know better she could have sworn she saw a look of pride her old friend’s eyes.

"Why do you think I was so convinced that he was going to show?" B’Elanna teased.

Kathryn was overwhelmed by the emotion that was in the room. She found herself leaning into each hug just to keep from falling on the floor. Never had she imagined that she could feel so loved, and so happy. Then again, it was the season of miracles.

Once everyone had calmed down she turned back to Chakotay and hugged him tightly.

"In case you didn’t notice my answer is yes." She whispered.

"I did." He kissed the top of her head. "I love you Kathryn."
"I love you too." She said. She couldn’t help but think, as she looked down at the shining emerald on her left hand, that this was by far the best Christmas ever…so far.

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