Disclaimer: These characters belong to Paramount et. al. but I have more fun with them.

Started: December 12, 2000
Completed: April, 27, 2003
Codes: J, Kes
Rated: PG

Dedicated to Ghostwriter, who seems to inspire my muse better than I do. Thank you for your help and friendship. I appreciate and cherish them both.

Authors Note: This story was inspired by the never-ending snowfall we've been having in Indiana (in December of 2000).

This story takes place after 'Warlord' and for all intents and purposes, there will be no 'Scorpion' or Seven of Nine, should there be a future continuation of this story.

Winter Wonderland
by Saffron

Kathryn Janeway leaned back in her chair and sighed. She had been working in her ready room when a message popped up on her computer screen—a message from the doctor reminding her of her REQUIRED monthly day off.

It was the required part that bugged her. But out of all the options he had given her, this seemed the least painful.

Now, clearly distracted from her work, Kathryn started the process of thinking of how she could spend this day off, especially during this holiday season. She brought up a list of her favorite holodeck programs on her screen and scrolled through them until she found one that was acceptable. Kathryn sighed again. She was getting tired of doing things alone. She went over the ship's roster, trying to decide on who to invite to join her.

Decision made, she tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Kes."

"Yes, Captain?" Kes' soft voice filtered in over the comm.

"Would you stop by my ready room when you have a moment?"

Kes' voice reflected her puzzlement by the request, "I'm on my way. Kes out."

Janeway had always enjoyed that Kes trusted her enough to confide in her. It was the kind of camaraderie that the Captain didn't get to enjoy often on board Voyager. Lately, though, that hadn't been that case and Kathryn found herself missing the young woman. Maybe some time together in holodeck would help get back that rapport.

Clearly pleased with her decision, Kathryn smiled and returned her attention back to her work.

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Kes had been on her way to her quarters when Captain Janeway summoned her. Kes felt her heartbeat quicken as she stepped into the turbolift. She took a couple of slow breaths to try and slow it down.

As the turbolift made it's way to the bridge, Kes' thoughts raced trying to figure out what she might have done to capture the captain's attention. And try as she might, the Ocampan could not calm the butterflies that suddenly became active in her stomach.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Kes nodded to Tuvok as she passed by him on the way to the ready room. Still a little nervous, Kes pressed the keypad for entry. She didn't understand why the captain needed to see her especially since she didn't get the impression that it was ship-related. The questions in her mind fell silent as the doors opened.

Janeway stood and smiled when she saw Kes enter the room. "Kes. Thank you for coming." The captain walked toward the couch and gestured for Kes to join her. "I have kind of a proposition for you."

Kes sat down, clasped her hands in her lap and waited expectantly. As she looked at Janeway, she was startled by the blueness of her eyes. She blinked her eyes to try and clear her head and focus on what the captain was saying.

"How would you like to come ice skating with me on Thursday?"

Kes made a nervous grin. "Ice skating, Captain?"

Kathryn leaned towards Kes. "Have you ever seen snow, Kes?"

"No."

Kathryn exhaled. "It's one of the things I miss during this time of year. One of the things I loved about Indiana was that the seasons were always clearly defined. Having a white Christmas was always ideal. Kes, I'm taking a day off and part of that day, I'm going to spend in the holodeck. I have a program that's a perfect winter wonderland and it's always more fun to share the experience with someone. There will be lot's to do, if you're up to it."

Kes really had no idea what the she was talking about, but it's a rare occasion that the captain asked someone to join her. "I'd love to, Captain," she said, trustingly.

Janeway gave Kes a broad grin and stood up. "Great!" exclaimed the captain. "I will send you specifications on what to wear so that you'll get the whole effect. I'll see you tomorrow at holodeck 2 at 1300 hours."

Kes could tell by the captain's tone that the conversation had ended. "I'm looking forward to it, Captain," responded Kes who then turned and left the room.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Kes spent the rest of the day a little preoccupied. She wasn't on duty, but she'd agreed to help Neelix with lunch in the mess hall.

But in the midst of everything, thoughts she had previously pushed out of her mind began resurfacing. Thoughts about the captain.

Breaking up with Neelix had been a freeing experience for Kes. It allowed her to open her heart and mind to many different possibilities, including one that she could never have predicted.

Ever since she came aboard Voyager, the Ocampan had looked up to Captain Janeway as a maternal figure/confidante. But during recent months, these feelings evolved.

A smile or a touch had new meaning. But Kes didn't fully understand what it meant and she felt slightly disturbed by what she felt. Since the captain was the person she usually confided in, Kes had sought out a new confidante - in form of Lt. Tom Paris.

She conveyed her feelings and thoughts to him without actually revealing who the object of her affection was. "Sounds like you're falling in love," he'd said.

'Falling in love.' Falling in love with the captain was not a good idea. Kes was of the opinion that if Janeway ever discovered the young woman's feelings, the relationship would change, and not for the better. These feelings were also marred by an underlying current of shame that resided deep with her.

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The next day, Kes stood by Holodeck 2, feeling a little foolish. The clothes the captain specified for her to replicate were like none she'd ever seen or worn. A green woven cap with a ball on top, matching mittens and scarf, black leggings, a black turtleneck sweater, a green puffy vest, green socks and black suede hiking boots. She held the scarf in her hands, not really sure how she was to wear it. She couldn't help but smile when Captain Janeway arrived dressed exactly the same way but instead of green, she wore blue. She had that long woven material was around her neck. Kathryn smiled when she saw Kes. "Hello, Kes. Sorry I'm late. I had trouble with the zipper on my vest." She looked proudly down at it. "It's from the 20th century. Called a 'down' vest."

"Down?"

"Another word for feathers. They're supposed to quite warm but light. Personally, they make me feel like a marshmallow, but that's all part of the fun." Kathryn smiled.

Kes just nodded and smiled. She wondered what a marshmallow was, but decided not to ask.

Janeway took a step towards the holodeck then paused and turned her head back towards Kes. "Oh, one more thing, Kes."

Kes looked at her expectantly.

"While we're in here, feel free to call me Kathryn. We're on vacation, not on duty."

Pleased, Kes could only smile warmly and nod. She knew this was a statement the captain, rather, Kathryn rarely made. It was going to take some getting used to.

"Let's go!" said Kathryn and she opened the doors to the holodeck.

Inside, it truly was a sight to behold and Kes had never seen anything like it. They stepped into the middle of a forest. Lots of pine trees, snowflakes falling lightly everywhere. Kathryn stood back as she watch Kes walk slowly forward, taking in the environment.

Kes wrapped the long material around her neck, imitating the captain, now understanding the need for such attire, as the temperature had dropped by several degrees.

After a few moments, Kathryn spoke up. "You know what's fun?"

Kes looked at her questioningly.

"Try to catch the snowflakes on your tongue."

"Which are the snowflakes," asked Kes, with an innocence that Kathryn couldn't help but appreciate.

"The small white things that are falling all around you. It's nothing but water, but it's fun to try and catch them on your tongue. I used to do it with my sister when we were younger." Kathryn got a wistful look in her eyes as she smiled at the memory. "Go ahead, try it."

Kathryn watched for a moment as Kes lifted her head back, stuck her tongue out, and aimed for the snowflakes and then joined her.

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Upon seeing the frozen pond, Kes asked, "What's that?"

"That," said Kathryn, holding out her hand towards the pond, "is where I'm going to try to teach you how to ice skate." Kathryn had a feeling that Kes would catch on quickly because young woman always had been a quick learner.

Kathryn led Kes to bench that had two boxes leaning against it. She picked up the first box and handed it to Kes. "Have a seat and check it out," she directed. Kes proceeded and saw what looked like a pair of white boots with silver horizontal blade stuck to the bottom. "Go ahead and try them on," said Kathryn. "I'll help you lace them up."

Kes glanced at Kathryn unsure.

Kathryn gave Kes' shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "It's ok. Trust me."

Kathryn sat down next to Kes and proceeded to put her skates on which were different from Kes' only in size. As she slipped her feet in them and laced them, Kes mimicked her actions and did the same.

Kathryn had always enjoyed ice-skating. It was one of the few things that her father had taken the time to teacher. But she knew she hadn't been the best skater so when her father no longer had the time to sake with her, she pursued tennis. It wasn't until after she had been in the Delta Quadrant for a couple of years that she had created this holoprogram and taken it up again. With the help of holographic instructors, she'd actually improved.

Kathryn watched as Kes cautiously stood up, test her weight on the skates. Kathryn stood up as well. "Ready for the next step, so to speak?" Kes nodded mutely.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

They walked slowly to the edge of the pond. Kes watched as the captain stepped on the surface. Deep appreciation flickered in her eyes. She wondered if there wasn't anything that the Captain couldn't do.

As Janeway glided across the ice, she couldn't help but show off a little. She skated a small figure 8 before coming to a stop at the edge of the pond in front of Kes. She reached her hands out toward Kes in an inviation for her to join her.

Kathryn marveled that it only took a few minutes to teach Kes the basics of ice-skating. And after she got used to distributing her weight on the blades, she was gliding along the ice with a smile on her face. Kathryn smiled as she watched Kes circle the ice pond. Inviting Kes had been a good decision.

Once Kes started to get the hang of it, Janeway let go of her hands and began skating backwards so that she could watch Kes' progress and at the same time, be close in case Kes needed help.

Kes seemed to improve with every step.

As Janeway watched, Kes looked up as she glided across the ice. Time seemed to shift to slow motion as their eyes met. In that moment, everything else was forgotten.

Unfortunately, it was at the same moment, Kathryn's skates met with the snow bank at edge of the pond.

They fell in a tangle of arms and legs in soft snow, with Kes on top.

With Kes only a breath away, Kathryn could no long deny one of the reasons she'd found herself missing Kes lately.

They disentangled themselves and stood up, brushing the snow off their clothes. The moment was gone. They silently made their way to the bench, sat down and began taking off the skate and putting their boots back on. Janeway didn't want an awkward moment to ruin the day. As she stood up, she took note of Kes still putting her boots back on. A mischievous look glinted in her eye as she walked a few steps away from Kes.

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As Kes finished pulling her boots back on, she felt something ice cold and soft hit her just above her right ear. She looked up to find Kathryn trying to look like she hadn't done anything even though it was obvious she had since they were the only people on this of the ice pond. "What was that?"

Kathryn smiled and walked over to Kes. "Remember when I said I was going to introduce you to snow? Well, that's what known as a snowball."

"And you throw it at people?" asked Kes, trying to understand this new custom.

"Yes! That's the fun of it! But you have to make sure the snow is soft or else it might hurt and that takes the fun out of it." Kathryn reached toward Kes and offered her a white ball of snow. "Try it."

Kes took it and promptly tossed it directly into Kathryn's face.

Kathryn sputtered and wiped the snow from her face. She couldn't help but smile. "Um, we'll come back to this later. Now, how about something hot to drink. It'll warm you up after being out in this cold weather."

Now this was something that Kes understood. She smiled and nodded at Kathryn.

"Ok, good. There's a cabin along this path. Follow me."

And Kes did just that, trudging and crunching along in the snow behind Kathryn.

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When they entered the cabin, they were greeted by a warm and a brightly decorated Christmas tree. They peeled off their winter clothes and hung them on the nail by the door then took off their boots and placed them near the roaring fireplace to dry them off.

"Have a seat near the fire, Kes. I'll go get the drinks."

Kes made herself comfortable on the big fluffy rug that was in front of the fireplace and watched the flames dancing in the hearth. She reveled in its warmth, stretching her legs out toward the fire and wiggling her toes.

"Here we are," said Kathryn standing over Kes holding two steaming mugs in her hands. She offered one to Kes, then sat down on the rug next to Kes.

Kes looked into her mug and saw small white objects floating in brown liquid. She gave Kathryn her umpteenth puzzled looks that afternoon.

Kathryn's chuckle resonated in her chest. "Those are marshmallows."

Understanding spread over Kes' face as Kathryn's earlier reference suddenly made sense. She watched as Kathryn took her first sip and watched the looked of contentment wash over her face. Kathryn noticed Kes watching her. "Go ahead," she urged. "Try it. It's not the same a coffee, but it's still good. I've not lead you astray thus far, have I?"

Kes brought the steaming mug to her face and took a small sip.

A crooked smile came to Kathryn's face. "I know it's hot, but you can take a bigger sip than that."

Kes took a bigger sip and smiled as the warm liquid slid down her throat. "This is good!" she said.

Kathryn nodded in response and they sat silently, enjoyed the warmth that surrounded them.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

A WHILE LATER:

As Kathryn watched the fire, memories of home flooded through her mind when she was brought back to the present by a sniffling sound in Kes' direction.

Kathryn put her mug down and leaned toward Kes in concern. "Kes?"

Kes had her head down so her long, wavy golden hair hung in front of her face. She reached her hand up and wiped her face. "It's nothing. I'm ok," she said quietly.

"Tears don't mean nothing, Kes."

"I don't… I can't... I..."

Kathryn moved closer, but Kes leaned way, "Don't." Her tone was almost pleading.

Kathryn was puzzled my Kes' sudden mood change. "Whatever it is, Kes, you can tell me."

Kes looked up and shook her head. "Not this. This is bad."

"The all the more reason that you should talk about it."

Kes sniffled and read the sincerity in Kathryn's eyes. "I've been on board Voyager for 3 years. To be a part of this crew, this family was dream come true. I've gotten to know a lot of the crew, made new friends and learned a great deal about a great many things. But you," Kes looked away from the captain. "But you have always been some what of a mystery, even though you've you always been there when I've needed someone. And… lately I've come to a realization."

Kes brushed her hair behind her ears and shifted her body to face Kathryn. "Actually, it was Tom who told me what it was. I didn't want to believe him."

"Kes…" Janeway felt the need to interrupt, but Kes continued.

"I described to him how I was feeling, but I didn't say for whom. He said…" Kes' voice lowered to a whisper, "He said that I was falling in love."

"Thank you for telling me, Kes." Kathryn's voice was soft and it resonated with emotion. "To be honest, I sensed something was going on. But why did you say it was bad? I've never considered loving someone a bad thing."

"No one ever really said anything specific. It was just understood. Only men and women together. Once, 2 men were caught holding hands in the park. I heard my parents discussing it. I've never heard them speak with such disgust and condemnation. I didn't understand it at the time, but when I realized how I felt about you, I felt ashamed. I thought you would not want to be around me anymore."

"That would never happen Kes. That you are able to tell me at all endears more to me." Kathryn's eyes became bright with the threat of tears. She paused and took a deep breath. Her facial expression became more vulnerable than Kes had ever seen it. "And I, uh, I be lying if I said I've not had similar thoughts. Kathryn swallowed again the lump in her throat. "But I never really let myself think about it.

Kes watched the captain's inner struggle that played so clearly on her face. "Kathryn," Kes spoke softly, surprised how comfortably the name formed on her lips, "there is no rule that says have to act on anything now. You know how I feel. I know how you feel. That's huge in my opinion. A great step towards friendship. A step we've never really taken the time to make."

"And if something more happens?"

"Then it will happen. And if it does, then it was meant to happen."

Kathryn looked at Kes as though she'd never seen the young woman before. Clearly, she had underestimated her in the past. She swore to herself that she wouldn't do that in the future.

She held up her mug in a toast, "Here's to friendship…and the future."

Kes smiled and raised her mug. "Friendship and the future," she echoed before she took a sip of the hot liquid, watching the captain over the rim of her cup with new appreciation.

Kes smiled and raised her mug. She took a sip of the warm liquid, watching the captain over the rim of her cup with new appreciation.

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Author's Afterward: I started this story with the intent of writing a J/Kes story, but the characters didn't seem to wanna go there so it's now a J, Kes friendship story. I tried to leave an opening for possible interaction, but you know never know what the future may or may not bring.
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