Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything, yada yada yada, but this story is mine. I incorporated bits and facts from both the episodes and from the "Day of Honor" novelization by Michael Jan Friedman, so copyrights to the respective people.

Author's note: Whether or not Christmas would fall here, this takes place somewhere between "The Gift" and "Day of Honor."

This edition is a re-write of a story I wrote over Christmas in 1997. I didn't like the narrative I was using back then, so I took some time to completely re-do it now. Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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'Twas the Night Before Christmas

by mspt47

"Daddy! Mama! Come on!"

Five-year old B'Elanna Torres sped through the living room, swerving around a glass sculpture on the coffee table. She stopped short before a pile of colorfully wrapped presents, neatly stacked under a simple yet elegant Christmas tree. Her parents followed her in, and B'Elanna turned to them, bouncing up and down on her toes.

Her mother ruffled her short hair. "Merry Christmas, B'Elanna."

B'Elanna grinned back, glad to see her mother in a good mood again. The past few weeks had been strange. Mama was cross and she argued a lot, too. Before that, she didn't usually smile much, but at least B'Elanna could make her laugh now and then. Lately, though, it was getting harder. B'Elanna didn't understand, and when she asked Daddy, he said he didn't either.

But it didn't matter now. Mama was happy. Daddy was happy. It was all better.

The young girl grabbed a present and climbed into the lap of her father who had taken a seat on the sofa beside the tree. Her mother sat next to him. "Can I open this one?" B'Elanna asked.

Her father patted her on the back. "Of course, Little Bee. It has your name on it. Gramma sent it to you all the way from Earth."

Without hesitating, B'Elanna tore through the wrapping. Gramma was her father's mother. B'Elanna only remembered a little of her when she came to visit her, Mama, and Daddy two years ago, but she liked her. Gramma didn't treat her like a baby, like a lot of the other adults at the colony on Kessik IV, and she liked to play B'Elanna's favorite games. B'Elanna hoped to see her again one day and was eager to open the present she sent.

There was a big bulge in the lid, and only a length of string kept it from popping off. B'Elanna carefully undid the tie, and she squealed in pleasure.

"It's a puma!" She pulled the stuffed feline from the box and wrapped her arms around it. "How did Gramma know I like pumas?"

"Because I told her, sweetie," her father said. "I told her about how much time you spend reading about them and drawing pictures."

B'Elanna hugged the puma even tighter, nestling the stuffed animal's soft fur against her neck. But her grin grew even wider. "Another present!"

Her father reached under the tree, and handed her a slim rectangular box. B'Elanna looked at it curiously for a moment then ripped off the gift-wrap.

"Wow!"

"Look at that!" her father said. "Your first data PADD!"

"I can pretend to be in Starfleet!" B'Elanna cheered. Then, suddenly remembering her mother's dislike of that particular game, B'Elanna glanced up. Her mother's smile had disappeared. She crossed her arms across her chest, and was shaking her head at her husband disapprovingly.

B'Elanna cringed. Without even needing to look to her father for his reaction, B'Elanna knew where this was heading. She'd overheard their arguments many times before -- which eventually put them both in bad moods. Her mother told him to "stop putting ridiculous fantasies in her head." But, the truth was, B'Elanna liked it when he told her stories of when he used to be in Starfleet, much more than the dull tales her mother droned on about the Klingon Empire. Her father made Starfleet sound like so noble, exploring the stars on a big starship. It fascinated her, and she fancied of joining the fleet when she was older.

"You are not joining Starfleet," her mother would say. "Your father still speaks highly of them, but why do you think he resigned? They're nothing but a bunch of oversensitive, cowardly bureaucrats." B'Elanna didn't know what a bureaucrat was, but Starfleet sounded more fun than what her mother wanted. She wanted B'Elanna instead to go to school and grow up here at the colony.

The girl swallowed hard. The morning had started off so well. Everyone was in a good mood and enjoying the holiday. And now she may have ruined it because she forgot to think before opening her mouth, something her teachers were always telling her to do. Why couldn't she remember that? It was going to be her fault for ruining Christmas.

B'Elanna looked up and decided it was up to her to fix it. She had to do something fast before either of her parents had a chance to say anything to each other.

She slid off her father's lap and picked up two identically wrapped presents. She handed one to each of her parents. "Here, Mama, Daddy. Open yours." She took a step back, and looked hopeful as they began to unwrap the boxes.

Her father's eyes lighted up. "Aww! Isn't that sweet?" He reached in and pulled out a plaster cast of B'Elanna's tiny forehead.

"I made one for you too, Mama."

Her mother's expression was no longer hard as she pulled out a similar piece. She nodded with a hint of pride, and exchanged a look with her husband, one that B'Elanna was hoping for. Her mother's lips had turned upwards just barely.

"Do you like it?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yes, thank you, Little Bee," her father said, kissing her cheek. "It's beautiful."

Her mother grunted in approval. "Fine ridges of an honorable Klingon warrior."

B'Elanna looked up. Not again, she thought. Why did Mama always have to talk about honor? It seemed like there never was a day that she didn't. But rather than make things worse again, B'Elanna kept her mouth closed.

"Go on," her mother said, "your presents await you."

B'Elanna grinned and tackled the remaining presents, opening them methodically, but with as much eagerness as any other five-year old. She ended up getting a model replica of the hovercraft she hoped to get in a few years when she was old enough to drive one, a new jumpsuit, and a complex Vulcan puzzle.

When she'd opened the last present, B'Elanna stared up at her parents. "Is it true kids used to believe in a jolly old man who brought them presents the night before Christmas?"

Her father laughed. "Where did you hear that?"

"From a boy in third grade."

"I see."

"Well?" B'Elanna prodded. "Is it?"

"Is it what, honey?"

"Is it true?"

He couldn't help but chuckle again. "Yes, it is. A long time ago."

"Why would anyone believe a silly thing like that?"

"It was a very old tradition. Parents told it to their kids to make them behave throughout the year, and if they were good, the jolly old man named Santa Claus would reward them with a special present from the North Pole."

"Oh." B'Elanna tried to understand the myth, but she looked up at him, very certain. "I think I like it better that you and Mama gave me my presents, and not some man I don't know climbing down my chimney."

Her mother scoffed. "A ridiculous human belief."

B'Elanna's father smiled. "Well, we're lucky." He pointed to the fireplace in front of him. "We don't have a chimney for anyone to climb down."

B'Elanna stared at it and remembered that no one get into a holographic fireplace. How silly! Giggling, she wedged herself between her parents. "I love Christmas."

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TWENTY YEARS LATER

"I hate Christmas!"

"Oh, come on, B'Elanna," urged Tom Paris as he followed her out of the mess hall. "It's the season of giving, the season of family, the season of…"

B'Elanna spun around abruptly, nearly colliding with him as he stopped short. "No! Do you understand me? No! N-O!"

"Why not?" demanded Tom. "For the two past years, you've come up with excuses to work to get out of the Christmas Eve parties, but this year I know that there is absolutely no legitimate reason for you to miss it. And you can't say it's because you hate Christmas. No one hates Christmas!"

"You … I can't … There's just…" B'Elanna sputtered angrily at Tom, wanting to say several things at once, but couldn't figure out which to say first. Finally she gave up and stalked off. Tom stayed at her heels all the way to her quarters and followed her in. He snagged her arm to stop her.

"What, B'Elanna? Why aren't you going?"

She shook herself out of Tom's grasp. "I told you! I hate Christmas!"

"That's ridiculous. You can't hate Christmas!"

"What do you know?" she demanded, her voice rising in volume. "And what makes you think you can tell me what I can and can't hate?"

"B'Elanna, what is the big deal? Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. All I'm asking is for you to join the rest of the crew for one evening. Is that too much to ask?"

She crossed her arms. "How is this not getting through to you? I'm NOT going."

Tom stared at her for a few moments, then shook his head. "Okay, fine. I give up. I don't know why I even bother." With that, he charged out the doors.

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How did I talk myself into this? Joe Carey slumped against the turbolift wall as it dropped towards Engineering. Surely, there was something better than working in Engineering on Christmas Eve. It seemed even worse when he remembered that he volunteered to take charge of the evening shift. Of course, it sounded like a good idea at the time ... but not anymore.

Sighing, he stared at the PADD containing the orders Commander Chakotay had given him. It won't be so bad, he tried to assure himself. Besides, it would only be for the first half of the evening -- then he was free to go to the party. The tasks themselves weren't that difficult -- it was just the fact that it was mundane maintenance, which tended to get tedious, especially when nothing was wrong.

And the last time he checked, all systems were running smoothly. Not a glitch anywhere.

It was going to be a long four hours.

He didn't expect many people to be around, so he didn't bother to look up as he wound his way out of the turbolift and into Engineering. He headed blindly to the main console, where he bumped into an unhappy B'Elanna Torres.

They were both startled.

Torres stood straight with a hand on her hip. "Carey, what are you doing here?"

"I was just about to ask you the same thing, Lieutenant. I thought you were at the party."

"Obviously, I'm not there," she answered curtly.

"I guess not ... but I just came from seeing Commander Chakotay. I didn't see your name on the duty roster."

"Well, I'm not officially on duty either, then, am I?"

He glanced at the console Torres been working at, and then back at her, noting the agonizing boredom on her face. Why the heck, then, was she here? Carey was still confused, but he never got to ask her why.

Torres pointed to the PADD in his hand and asked, "Are those the maintenance checks we're supposed to do?"

"Yes, but…"

Torres took the PADD from him and glanced over the long list. "Okay, I'll take the first half, and you and everyone else can have the rest." She shoved the PADD back into his hand, grabbed a toolbox and headed for the Jeffries tubes.

********************************

It was well into the middle of the night, but B'Elanna didn't feel like sleeping.

It was the last thing she wanted to do. In fact, she was about ready to jump out of her skin. The maintenance checks were so monotonous and repetitive that she started to feel trapped in the Jeffries tubes after a while. She pushed on to finish, though, but she was almost hoping to find something wrong. Something to make her efforts worth the time, but she had no such luck. Things couldn't have been going better.

Nonetheless, the half of Carey's task list kept her busy the entire evening as she hoped it would. She figured if she was occupied until the party was nearly over, then no one could make her go. The four hours chugged along slowly, but steadily.

When she got back to her quarters, she changed and crawled into bed, preparing to sleep all through the next day, but she found that she couldn't keep her eyes closed. She was too restless. After about an hour of tossing and turning, she gave up, grabbed a PADD from her desk and curled up on the couch to analyze warp coil efficiency readouts.

It wasn't long before her door's chime interrupted her.

B'Elanna looked up, but she remained quiet. She hoped that whoever was there would assume she was asleep and leave. But the door chimed again. And again. And again.

She growled, then hollered, "What!?"

The doors leading to the corridor slid open and an apprehensive Harry Kim poked his head in. "Uh, B'Elanna?"

"What do you want, Harry?"

"I … uh, do you mind if … I come in?"

B'Elanna didn't budge. "Now's not a good time."

Despite her response, Harry stepped in anyway. "No, I think this is a good time. I had the computer check to see if you were awake." B'Elanna shot him a sharp glare, but he didn't let that stop him. "Why weren't you at the party?"

"I was working. I still am." She waved the PADD in her hand.

"You can't use that on me," he said. "I work at Ops, remember? If there's anything that needs to be done, I would know about it."

B'Elanna didn't answer, but she realized Harry would continue to stare down at her until she said something. So she asked sarcastically, "What, is the party over already?"

"Don't change the subject, B'Elanna. And stop avoiding the question. We all thought everyone would be coming to the party this year, and that includes you."

"Well, I'm sorry I let everyone down," she snapped.

"You didn't answer my question."

"What?"

"You do have a real reason for not going to the party, don't you?"

"I told you --"

Harry cut her off. "B'Elanna, I'm not leaving until I get the truth."

She gritted her teeth. "I don't celebrate anything this time of year."

"Why?"

"I just ... don't like to, okay?"

"No, B'Elanna, it's not okay. You don't get it, do you? This party isn't just about Christmas. This is the time of year where family and friends get together. And since the only family any of us have is each other, we spend this holiday together. All of us. For heaven's sake, even Seven of Nine was there. And of us all, she would have the least to celebrate. But she was there, B'Elanna. What do you think that says to people? That you're not their friend? That you don't consider them your family?"

B'Elanna rubbed a hand over eyes, already feeling her blood pressure escalate. "You don't understand how much I hate this time of year. All the colorful lights, and decorations, and ... cheeriness. I can't stand it!" B'Elanna tried to take a deep breath. "All it does is reminds me of how I spent the last two decades of my life, miserable during Christmas, remembering the holidays when my father was still around."

Harry took a seat on the couch beside her. "That was the past. You have friends here on Voyager who want you there when we get together. It means more to us than you think. This is supposed to be the season of family."

She looked at the floor. "Tom was telling me the same."

"And that's another thing. You should have seen him, B'Elanna. He spent the entire night make believing he was fine when it was obvious -- to me, at least -- that he was upset. He wanted you to be there. And it really hurt him that you weren't."

B'Elanna pulled her knees tighter, now noticing how much impact Harry's words were having on her. They hit her like a brick. She was being selfish. Not just this year, but the past two Christmases as well. No one on Voyager deserved to be treated this way. Not even Tom … especially Tom.

She unhooked her hold on her knees. "Is … he still there?"

"Yes. There's only an hour left of the party, but most everyone is still there."

"Are you going back?" she asked.

"No, I'm turning in for the night."

B'Elanna nodded slowly. "I'm sorry, Harry. I never meant to hurt anyone."

Harry squeezed her shoulder. "It's okay, but there's someone else you should say that to."

"I know. That's where I'm about to go."

*********************************

This wasn't going to be easy. B'Elanna knew that from the moment she entered the holodeck.

Right from the beginning, she was tempted to turn back around and leave. There was a Christmas carol playing in the background -- one she couldn't name, but she'd heard it before. It jolted her as she realized it was one of the carols in the recordings her father used to play on Christmas Eve. She stopped for a moment and glanced back at the doors. It was unlikely that many people had seen her yet, so she could have easily slipped back out. But she took a deep breath and wiped her sweaty palms against each other. No, she had to do this. It was the right thing to do.

She looked down once more at her dress and smoothed out the wrinkles. The material, silky brown velvet, was soft against her hands, almost calming. She tugged on the vest she wore over the dress, and felt the small weight in one of the pockets. Then, she continued inside.

There were more people still there than she expected. As she passed through, most of them looked surprised to see her, but they welcomed her in. B'Elanna gave everyone her best attempt at a genuine smile as she surveyed the establishment, looking for Tom.

He wasn't too hard to find. He was at the pool table, playing a game by himself, but he didn't seem to be having much fun. At the sound of B'Elanna's footsteps, he looked up to see who had entered. Then his body stiffened and he walked around the table so that his back was to her.

B'Elanna bit her lip and told herself to stay calm. He had every right to be angry.

From one of the tables near the entrance, Captain Janeway stood and approached her. "B'Elanna, you made it."

B'Elanna tried again to smile. "I'm sorry I'm so late."

"Don't worry. Everyone will be glad just to see you here. There's some food left if you're hungry, and there are plenty of drinks going around."

"Thank you, but I'm fine."

Janeway cocked her head to the side slightly. "Is everything all right? We were wondering if you were going to come."

"There was ... something of a personal matter that came up, but … I think it's taken care of."

"That's good to hear. Now," Janeway said, sweeping her arm out, "go enjoy the rest of the night."

B'Elanna looked around again, deciding this was as good a time as ever to talk to Tom. Putting it off until later wasn't going to make what she had to do any easier.

She took a deep breath and approached the pool table slowly, watching as Tom racked up the balls to start another game. "Tom?"

He didn't answer. Instead he positioned himself for the opening break, drew back his cue, and shot with such a force that the impact produced a startling crack. However, none of the balls were pocketed.

"Come on, Tom, I just -- I just want to apologize."

Tom still refused to say anything and moved to the opposite side of the table.

"Damn it, Tom! Don't make this harder for me! Look, I know you're mad --"

Tom stood straight and looked her in the eyes, startling her. B'Elanna stuttered to continue. "And ... I don't blame you for being upset."

"You're right, I am upset," he said. He dropped the cue stick and put his hands on the table. "This party was for the entire crew, B'Elanna. I thought you were part of it."

"I am! But I know from the way I behaved, it didn't seem that way. Christmas was probably the worst time of year for me growing up. But ... that's no excuse for my behavior. And I shouldn't have exploded at you like I did. You didn't do anything to deserve it."

Tom continued his silence, so she went on. "I, uh, didn't have enough rations to replicate anything big, but..." She reached into the pocket of her vest and produced a small box. She walked along the side of the table and handed it to him. "Here. This is for you." She swallowed. "I really am sorry for everything."

Tom held the box for a few moments, turning it over in his hands. Then he opened the lid, revealing a small glass ornament in the shape of a snowflake.

"It's for the tree," B'Elanna said.

Tom lifted it out of the box, and looked it over. He turned to her for a moment, as if he was taking the time to consider her apology. Then he crossed the room, and B'Elanna followed as he went to the tree and hung the ornament on one of the branches.

Finally, her looked back at her, no longer angry. "You didn't have to give me anything, but I appreciate the gesture. Thank you, B'Elanna. It's beautiful."

"I ... actually almost came without it," she admitted, shifting her weight. "I had the computer go through practically every ornament on file, and most of them were so ... unattractive, I didn't think you'd like them." She fingered one of the ones on the tree, and almost started laughing. "But then again, they just might fit well with these."

Tom's jaw dropped, almost laughing himself. "B'Elanna, these are classic ornaments. A lot of these are replicas of the ones passed down in my family." He reached for one of a snowman, clad in a very tacky scarf and a top hat. "Take this one, for example. According to my mother, her great-grandfather made this out of clay when he was just four years old."

B'Elanna stared at it with a raised eyebrow. "And all of these ... are what people hung on their Christmas trees?"

"What, you didn't decorate your --" Tom caught himself mid-sentence. "Oh, wait ... sorry. You didn't enjoy Christmas."

B'Elanna looked at him for a few moments without saying anything. Then she shook her head. "No, it's all right. We, um, celebrated Christmas before my father left ... but our tree didn't look anything like this. We hung bows, bells, plastic snowflakes and tinsel."

Tom chuckled. "The more 'classy' style, as my mother would say." He paused for a moment, and a puzzled look crossed his face. "Uh, B'Elanna?"

"What?"

"Why are people all of a sudden staring at us?"

B'Elanna turned in the direction he was looking. There were a number of crewmembers several feet away, many of them smirking. "What?" she demanded of them.

Janeway, who was at the front of the group, couldn't help smiling and pointed up to the ceiling. At the intersection of two wooden beams was a twig of a green plant. "You're standing under mistletoe."

B'Elanna looked to Tom who looked just as confused and shrugged. "So?" he said.

"Well, traditionally, when two people find themselves standing under mistletoe, they have to kiss."

B'Elanna stared at the captain, mouth agape, and scoffed. "I don't think so!"

Janeway held up her hands and shrugged. "What can I say? It's a tradition dating back for centuries."

"I think we should do it," Tom said. "For tradition sake."

"Of course, you'd be the first one to say that," B'Elanna said. "This was probably your idea!"

"Actually," Janeway said, "it was mine. After I reviewed the holo-program, Tom said I was free to make some ... decorative additions."

B'Elanna shifted her gaze between the captain to Tom, still in disbelief. "With all due respect, Captain, this is ridiculous."

"Come on, B'Elanna," Tom urged. "It's all in the name of fun."

She shook her head again, but before she knew it, Tom grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her to him. Her eyes went wide, but all she could see was his face pressed to hers, and feeling his soft lips firmly against to her own.

It stunned her for a few moments. Much to her surprise though, she didn't respond aggressively, as she would have expected. Tom probably knew the risk of finding himself on a trip to Sickbay within minutes, but he took the gamble anyway. He was definitely crazy.

But two can play at this game. Instead of pulling away, B'Elanna decided it was time to give Tom a taste of his own medicine.

She reached a hand behind his neck and started to kiss him back. At first she did so very gently, but it grew more intense, deeper, and more passionate until she felt his heart pounding and his knees waver. Finally, she pulled back.

It was his turn to be stunned. He stared open-eyed and slack-jawed at her, gasping for air.

B'Elanna couldn't help but smirk. "You were right, Tom. That was fun." With a satisfied grin, she walked away, listening to the onlookers who were no doubt amused.

Maybe this year, Christmas won't be so bad after all.