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Summary: Kathryn wishes for a Christmas miracle.

 

This Christmas Eve - Part 5
Christmas Wishes

Year: 2385

"And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight...
'Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!' "

Kathryn looked down at her two children. Her little sleeping angels. Emily was snuggled into her left arm, leaning her head against her mother's shoulder. Little Kol was lying with his head against her swollen stomach. She felt the baby move within her.

"I guess you're the only one who's *not* asleep," she whispered, trying to sit up without disturbing the children. Though she knew she couldn't sit for too long. Not in her condition. Just then, Emily woke up and began rubbing her eyes.

"Is the story over?"

"Yes, and now it's time for you two to go and have your own visions of sugarplums!" Emily rose from the couch in their room and crawled onto her bed. Kathryn carefully lifted Kol into her arms, trying not to wake him, but to no avail. He awoke as she rested his head against her shoulder.

"I want another story," he mumbled.

"You couldn't stay awake for the last one!" She lightly tousled his hair, causing him to giggle. "Besides, Santa will be here soon. So you both better be asleep when he comes."

"Will Santa be able to find us here?" Emily asked, a worried look on her face.

"I guarantee it," she answered as she lay Kol down on his bed, lifting the covers over him.

"I hope so...I wished for a baby brother," Kol exclaimed, his face lit up with excitement.

Kathryn's eyes widened. "You did? Well, you're gonna have to wait a few more months before you can get that wish. Besides, it may be a little girl."

"I hope it's a boy because I want to be a big brother, not a big sister!"

Kathryn began to laugh at his misunderstanding. "Well, you don't have to worry, sweetie. You're going to be a big brother, no matter if it's a boy or a girl." She kissed his forehead, tucking him snugly under the blankets.

"What's the matter, Emily?" she asked, moving over to her daughter's bed. Emily was staring blankly out the window with a sad look in her eyes.

"I wish that Daddy could be here to celebrate with us. It doesn't seem the same without him."

Kathryn reached out to stroke her hair. "I know," she whispered, pulling her into a hug. "I wish he could be here, too. But I know that wherever he is, your father will always be right here in our hearts."

Emily looked up at her mother, offering a slight smile. She then began to pull the blankets up as Kathryn bent to kiss her goodnight. Before leaving the room , Kathryn took on last look back, before she turned down the lights.

"Good night," she whispered, as she shut the door, leaving the children to their Christmas dreams. Kathryn stepped into her own bedroom and walked over to the window. She began to gaze at the stars, those familiar stars she had longed to see ever since she and her crew had become stranded in the Delta Quadrant.

"How I wish you could be here to see this, Chakotay," she murmured, reaching up to brush the fresh tears from her cheek. "I miss you so much."

*****

Voyager had finally completed its unexpected mission to the Delta Quadrant 5 months earlier, finding its way to Earth once more. No incorrect timeline. No holodeck facsimile. No tricks from her old foe, Q. It was the real deal, and Kathryn and her crew were overwhelmed with joy. She and her *Starfleet* crew. Not so of the ex-Maquis members.

To their dismay, Starfleet had seen fit to imprison the remaining Maquis, pending a court trial, to punish them for their actions so many years ago. That had been Kathryn's exact argument. It was so many years ago. She hailed them as being some of the best crew members she had ever served with. That each and every one of them was worthy of redemption.

But her pleas had fallen on deaf ears. The Federation had punished the other Maquis members for their crimes, and it was only fair for these remaining few to receive the same censure. Case closed.

A few days before Voyager reached Earth, they were met by a transport shuttle, which promptly carried Chakotay, B'Elanna, and all the others away. No time for good-byes, not even to their children. That was the part that disturbed Kathryn the most. In fact, she had not been allowed to see Chakotay nor any other Maquis since that day. He didn't even know that he was about to become a father again. Some days, Kathryn wondered if he would ever know.

Kathryn's mother, Gretchen, took her and the children into her home gratefully. It pleased her to see her daughter finally settled, and with a family. But it also pained her to see her daughter so upset and torn. Kathryn had fought with Starfleet ever since their return, trying everything in her power to get the former Maquis released. Spending many days at Headquarters arguing with board members. Spending many days away from her children.

One morning, as Kathryn was preparing to leave, Gretchen decided that it was time to confront her.

"Kathryn, this has to stop. You can't keep badgering Starfleet. It may be causing more harm than good."

"I know exactly what I'm doing. They're being unreasonable, and totally unfair, and I must set things right."

"And what about your children? Aren't you being a little unfair to them?"

"How can you say that? Why do you think I'm doing all this?", Kathryn snapped, anger flashing across her face. "I'm trying to get their father home where he belongs! I...*we* need him...what is so hard to understand about that?"

Gretchen kept her composure as Kathryn slowly began to lose hers. It wasn't the first time she had seen her daughter's volatile temper...and it probably wouldn't be the last.

"I know that you miss your husband. I can certainly sympathize with that. And I understand that Emily and Kol miss their father. But, Kathryn, they miss their mother, too. They look to you for guidance and support. For comfort. To be there to calm their fears. To help them understand all that's happened. They need *you*, Kathryn...all three of them need you."

Kathryn glared back at her mother, unsure of how to respond. Of course, she was right. Gretchen Janeway was *always* right.

That afternoon, Captain Kathryn Janeway filed one last appeal to the board, then took an indefinite leave of absence from Starfleet before returning home. Home to her children...where she was truly needed and wanted.

*****

"This was supposed to be a happy memory, our return home. Why did things have to go so wrong?" she whispered into the empty room. As Kathryn drew back the sheets on her bed, she stumped her toe on a box sticking out from beneath the bed.

"What's this?" she questioned, stooping carefully to pick it up. As she opened the lid, she instantly began to smile.

"Happy memories," she said as she looked down at all the crystal ornaments which Chakotay had given her over the past several years. Kathryn decided that they belonged on the tree, and quietly slipped downstairs.

The huge Christmas tree in the living room was still glistening, and Kathryn could hear Gretchen fumbling around in the kitchen. She went about her task, not wanting to disturb her mother. She carefully hung each and every crystal ornament from the branches of the tree, remembering each Christmas Eve that had passed. Her movements inadvertently caused another ornament to tumble to the floor.

"Kathryn, is that you?" Gretchen called as she stepped from within the kitchen holding a cup of hot chocolate. She sighed when she saw Kathryn on the other side of the Christmas tree, attempting to retrieve the stray ornament from the floor. "I had a feeling that you might still be up...what are you doing?"

"I...was just adding a few more touches to the tree. I hope you don't mind."

Her mother smiled as she noticed the additional ornaments. "It's perfectly alright. Wherever did you find these?" she asked, lightly touching one of them.

Kathryn sighed. "These were gifts from Chakotay. Each Christmas Eve, ever since we've been together, he has given me one crystal ornament. Something to represent a special event that had taken place that year."

She began showing them to Gretchen, retelling each story. By the time Kathryn had finished, they were both on the verge of tears. Her mother wrapped a reassuring arm around her shoulder.

"I know how hard it must be for you. It's always more difficult around the holidays when your loved ones aren't there. But you must be strong. Things always have a way of working out."

"I just wish that he could *be* here," she said, reaching out to reposition the very first ornament she had received. Remembering his words, she continued. "But at least this way, a part of him *is*."

They stood together, watching the light catch in the crystal ornaments. Finally, Gretchen moved towards the stairs.

"I'm think I'm going to turn in. There's some more hot chocolate in the kitchen, if you want some."

"Thanks. I think I do. Goodnight, Mom...and Merry Christmas."

Gretchen smiled back at her. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart."

Kathryn walked into the kitchen, feeling a little better. She noticed a small gift lying on the table. It was wrapped in shiny paper, and looked strangely familiar to her.

"It couldn't possibly be..." she said, taking the gift into her hands. The tag had her name on it, printed perfectly. Kathryn opened the gift and gasped at what she saw inside. Tears flooded her eyes as she took the crystal ornament, shaped like a house, into her trembling hands.

"It's to remind you of the year that we finally made it home."

Kathryn turned towards the voice and caught herself on the edge of the table when she found herself staring back at her husband.

"Chakotay! What...how...is that really you?" she stammered, visibly shocked that he was there.

"Yes, Kathryn," he answered, grinning as he held out his arms to her. She immediately rushed into them, holding him tight out of fear that he might disappear.

"I thought I would never see you again. I tried...everyday...for weeks, but they wouldn't let me. You don't know..."

"I do know, Kathryn. We all knew what you tried to do for us," he whispered, placing delicate kisses into her hair.

"But...how? How did you get here? Why wasn't I told? I need..."

He placed a finger across her lips. "I'll explain it all later. Right now, I just want to celebrate my release with my family...which, I believe there's something you need to tell me," Chakotay said, smiling as he brought his hand down to her stomach.

"A complete, yet wonderful surprise...just like you," she remarked, wrapping her arms around his neck to pull his lips down to hers.

He kissed her with all the passion a man could give, wanting to make up for all the lost time with his wife. Holding her tightly against him. Whispering the words of love with each breath. She kissed him just as eagerly, hoping that she could make him see how much she had missed him, too.

After a few moments, Chakotay hesitantly broke their kiss and reached up to brush his hand against Kathryn's cheek, smiling. "Every night, I asked the spirits of my people to watch over you and Emily and Kol...to keep you all safe until I could see you again."

"We asked the same for you," she replied, taking his hands into hers. "Come on...the kids are in bed, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you came to visit them."

On their way out from the kitchen, Kathryn picked up the latest addition to her ornament collection. She and Chakotay stopped in front of the tree to find the perfect spot in which to hang it.

Gretchen stood atop the stairs, watching them silently. It thrilled her to see her daughter so happy once more, and she began to smile. Kathryn's Christmas wish had come true, and in many ways, so had her own.

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 ]
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