Disclaimer - Paramount own the characters, not what I do with them. Ho ho ho.
Set at the end of year two.
"You *are* joking?"
Kathryn studied his expression in the ready room as Chakotay smiled. He appeared to regard her quite seriously spoken question with no small amount of amusement.
"Why would I be joking?"
Shaking her head, Kathryn tried to wrap her mind around the very idea. Needing confirmation, needing clarification, she tried again. "So you have never celebrated Christmas." She tried to keep her voice neutral this time, unquestioning. It didn't work. When she finished speaking she eventually added "Ever?"
He chuckled, shifting in the chair he was sitting across from her in. "Think about it, Kathryn. My peoples beliefs and celebrations were not inspired by the birth of Christ. Why would we celebrate the same religious days?"
She found it rather difficult to argue with that. "But never? Not even at the Academy? On any of the ships you were assigned to? The Maquis?"
Chakotay shook his head. "I knew of it, certainly. I could hardly not be aware of it when most of the people I knew and worked with celebrated it. I did actually know about Christmas before the Academy; although my father didn't exactly encourage me, he did let me learn and read about other beliefs." Pausing, he smiled, his gaze reflective. "I remember the first time I read about it. To me it just sounded like another boring day of ceremonies. I already had enough of those as far as I was concerned. Then...when I went to the Academy, I discovered it wasn't quite as...dull as I thought it was. But, from what I saw, it seemed more about getting drunk than anything else."
Kathryn smiled. "May I remind you, Commander, that you were at the Academy? I think getting drunk is a prerequisite."
He nodded, matching her smile. "True enough, I suppose."
Leaning back in her chair, she continued to smile but tried to keep the faint trace of nervousness from her face. "Well...I hope you don't mind...but I'd like to give you a little piece of Christmas. I'm certainly not trying to convert you-"
"It's okay," He interrupted, kindly. "What is it?"
She half-grinned, half-rolled her eyes. "It's Tom's fault. Or Neelix's. Since Neelix realised that we missed out on the opportunity for a big Christmas celebration last year, he's insisting we have one this year and..."
Chakotay finished, knowing where she was heading. "...he asked Paris to help him out."
Kathryn nodded. "They've been doing quite a lot of research and have resurrected some old traditions that seemed to have faded over the years."
Chakotay shrugged. "So which one would you like to share with me?"
Ignoring the utterly ridiculous sensation in her stomach, Kathryn finally moved the PADD that lay on her desk that had been obscuring the item. Picking up the envelope, she handed it to him.
Frowning, he took it and looked at her.
"It's a Christmas card."
He continued looking at her, waiting for clarification. She gave it.
"It's a way of giving your best wishes of the Christmas season to someone you care about; a friend, a family member. You give them a card with a Christmas message inside and they usually put it up somewhere."
As she spoke, Chakotay's mouth transformed into a smile that grew bigger with each passing moment. "I see," He said, then looked down at the envelope. The smile vanished. "You wrote my name on the envelope."
Kathryn frowned, confused. "Well of course I did. If I was giving you a card I wouldn't put someone else's name on the-"
"No," He cut in. "I don't mean that...I mean...you *wrote* it. Yourself. It wasn't something that was produced by the computer with printed writing."
She tried to shrug off the seriousness with which he was taking it. "Oh, I don't know, Chakotay. The paper and card I used came from the replicator."
"Kathryn," He warned, waving the envelope at her.
She sighed, then waggled her hand towards him. "Just open it!" Her impatience was getting the better of her. No surprise there then, but she tried to ignore the inner voice that was telling her to stop rushing him. This was the first time he'd ever received a Christmas card, after all.
He muttered something under his breath, then lowered his gaze and carefully picked open the envelope.
Kathryn nearly grabbed it from him and ripped the damn thing open herself.
Eventually, he pulled out the card and - placing the envelope on the desk - turned the card to study it.
He stared at it for ten seconds before speaking, his head still lowered. "You painted this yourself," He stated, not a question, referring to the image on the card.
Shrugging, Kathryn smiled. "My sister was always the artist in the family, but I try."
Still looking at the card, he shook his head. "I love it." Moving his head back up to match her gaze, he repeated the words. "I love it."
She stared at him.
"It opens," She found herself saying, knowing that he would have figured that out for himself, but a little horrified and elated by his reaction.
That smirk appeared - the one where he seemed to know exactly what she was thinking - but he lowered his gaze and opened the card. He seemed to study that for even longer than he had studied the picture. After what felt like twenty heart-pounding moments for Kathryn, he finally lifted his head and met her gaze.
A small smile pulled at his mouth and his eyes were filled with emotion. "Thank you," was all he said softly, although intently.
Kathryn could have spent her entire day just looking at him, like that. And she would have too, if they hadn't been interrupted by a low and easily recognisable whining noise.
Blinking, she glanced around her ready room. "Chakotay, did you hear that?"
When she turned back towards him, he was staring up at something. Following his gaze, she swivelled in her chair and in one second her eyes widened and she was out of the chair. Obviously, Tom and Neelix had been up to something...
Struggling to maintain her composure, she cleared her throat and tried to pull down the foliage that was somehow attached to the wall behind her chair, but it was just a little too high.
A hand appeared and covered hers.
"Here, let me," He told her, and Kathryn was sure she could feel his breath on her neck.
She cleared her throat, again, as he rested one hand on the wall for balance and stood on tiptoe.
"This is mistletoe," Kathryn told him. "It's used for-"
"I know what mistletoe is used for, Kathryn," He whispered.
Kathryn closed her eyes.
His hand never made it to the mistletoe.
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