Disclaimer: All characters, vessels, science, and the original plot belong to Paramount with the exception of the new parts of the plot and anything else that is my creation.

Summary: A short glimpse into the celebration of a holiday aboard Voyager, as experienced by the captain and first officer. One shot.

Chronology: End of season two

Pairings: Slight implied J/C

Rating: K+ for mild implied romance.

Author's Note: I apologize for any errors in continuity or native tradition. So sorry I've been away from FF for so long. This is a short piece I wrote for my writing club that is also meant to serve as a gift to all my wonderful readers who've been so patient with my absences.


Midnight

"Chakotay, is this really necessary?" Captain Kathryn Janeway felt utterly ridiculous fumbling her way through the halls of her starship with her first officer's hands placed over her eyes.

"It is if you want the full effect," he replied, his calm deep voice coming from just behind and over her left shoulder.

She could hear the smile hiding in his words. Despite what she knew was a friendly teasing, she offered him a warning. "Commander, if any of the crew see me stumbling around like this, I will bust you down to ensign so fast you'll think humans have finally achieved warp ten capabilities."

This time he actually chuckled. "No witnesses, I promise. Besides, we're here."

"Excellent. So I can open my eyes now."

"No, not yet."

"Chakotay. It's the middle of the night and I've been up since 0400."

"Just one more minute." He shifted so that one hand covered both her eyes and she felt the other brush past her. She heard a soft beeping as he entered commands into a control console, and then the distinctive clang-whoosh that could only mean they were standing in front of one of the Holodecks. Chakotay returned his other hand to her eyes and carefully guided her through the now-open set of large double doors.

After just a few steps inside, Kathryn felt a strange, non-carpet softness under her boots and a startling wave of cold that enveloped her and her first officer like a flash flood. It reminded her of entering the giant walk-in refrigerator at Starfleet Academy when she once took a shift at the dining hall to cover for a friend. "Chakotay, where are we?"

"Ok, ok. You can open your eyes now." He whisked his hands away.

Kathryn opened her eyes and blinked twice, making certain she was actually seeing what she thought she was seeing. The two of them now stood in a wide, open snowy field with a few scattered groups of small pine trees. The sharp cold seemed to bring the sky into greater focus, and the patterns of the diamond-like stars twinkling in the black velvet heavens told her that they stood somewhere on Earth.

"What do you think?"

She turned to Chakotay. The starlight even glinted off his dark hair and made the snow around them glow. "It's beautiful. Where are we?"

He grinned. "Central Indiana."

She shook her head in disbelief, smiling. Her home state. "Chakotay, what's all this about?"

"Well, if we were in the Alpha Quadrant and actually standing on Earth right now instead of in a starship that's floating at the far end of the Delta Quadrant, it would be December 31, 2372…" Here he stole a glance at an old-fashioned pocket watch he seemed to have retrieved from nowhere. "…at approximately 2300 hours, fifty-one minutes. 11:51 at night, using the old time system."

Kathryn tucked a lock of her auburn hair behind one ear absentmindedly before she crossed her arms to create a little more heat, though her long sleeved red and black uniform, created specially to adapt to a variety of planetary conditions, was more than sufficient. The action was mostly reflex. "New Year's Eve," she murmured. "I thought I was the only one who remembered."

"It is sort of an antiquated holiday," her first officer admitted, crossing his own arms. "And hard to celebrate off-planet."

She turned and looked up him, hiding a smile at the broad-shouldered man lost in thought while standing almost knee deep in snow. "Still," she said. "I always thought it was…fitting to bid farewell to the old, welcome the new, decide what to do differently in the time ahead." She traced the Big Dipper and Orion with her eyes, drinking in the familiar patterns that she hadn't seen in two years.

He nodded. "I like that. Very traditional."

"Yes, well, don't tell my parents." They both chuckled. "I was always rebelling against tradition, including holidays. New Year's Eve I pretended not to care about board games or homemade pizza."

Chakotay laughed again and took a deep breath of the frigid night air before he stole another glance at the pocket watch's face. "11:55."

"So what did your family do to celebrate?"

"Usually we would make a fire outside and offer silent thoughts for our ancestors. Afterwards, we would stay up until one or two and roast anything you could put on a stick over that fire."

It was the captain's turn to laugh. "Anything?"

"The peanut butter sandwich was not one of my successes."

She smiled at the thought and allowed a long pause as she scanned the surrounding area. There was nothing but snow and small trees as far as her eyes could make out in the darkness. "So when did you do all this?"

"This afternoon, over lunch. I could tell you had something on your mind at this morning's officer's meeting. I made an intelligent guess." He hesitated like an awkward cadet. "Do you like it?"

A deep gratitude swelled in her chest, along with another unexpected and not immediately identifiable feeling, and she touched his arm in an attempt to convey what she knew she couldn't properly get across in words. "I love it," she said simply, little more than a whisper. "Thank you.

It was hard to tell in the dark, but he might have been blushing. "I'm glad. And you're welcome," he smiled back.

They held a gaze long enough that they both felt slightly awkward and Chakotay cleared his throat and reached for the watch again. "11:58."

As she felt the year 2372 slipping away second by second, Kathryn saw an impossibly fast slideshow of moments from the past two years she'd spent lost in the Delta Quadrant with her crew. Victories, losses, celebrations, tragedies, places, people, those they'd gained, and those they'd lost. As the images settled in her brain, they formed a hazy theme that pushed an invisible button and she had a sudden sensation of sliding towards some dark, unknown end and knowing only one way to stop.

"Ten…nine…eight…seven…" Chakotay counted down, eyes on the watch face.

She knew it was irrational, she'd been fighting it for months, maybe years, she was the captain, she couldn't afford distractions—but something somehow overrode all that and before she had a chance to convince herself otherwise, her mind was made up.

"Five…four…"

"Chakotay."

Turning to face her, he continued counting, a question on his face. "Three…two…"

He never made it to one, because Kathryn tugged on his uniform shirt and brought his lips down to meet hers. For what might have been moments or minutes, their ranks melted away and they let the electricity flow between their faces, a silent but expressive bond.

Kathryn was the one who eventually pulled away, reluctant to reassert herself as captain but knowing that what was happening between them couldn't continue.

At least not for now. It was a new year, a new chance that they might get home, a new chance that somehow things could change and they'd be free to do whatever they felt. But for the moment, part of the old year would have to intrude.

She let go of his shirt and stepped back, smiling and trying not to laugh at his bewildered face. "Tradition, right?" she asked with a tilt of her head, smoothing the fabric on his chest.

He tried to formulate a response, but seemed to have lost all capacity for speech.

"Happy new year, commander," she smiled, and patted his arm. "Thank you again."

Kathryn Janeway made her way through the snow to the Holodeck doors, the stars overhead smiling down in what to her seemed to be a secret, silent approval.

It was a new year, they reminded her. A brand new year.