DISCLAIMER: Here's a silly short story that I hope you enjoy. Paramount owns some of them, goodness knows who 'owns' the other one!

By alastria7

B'Elanna was busy with some padds at the table when the door of her quarters opened to admit her partner, Seven of Nine. She didn't look up immediately, as Seven's presence was expected, but the fact that she gradually became aware of two sets of footfalls instead of one got her attention. "Who's he?" she asked of Seven, waving a hand toward the rather rotund gentleman who was standing slightly behind her wife although, even through her confusion, she had time to consider that for a big guy he was remarkably light on his feet.

"I found him outside, when I was hanging out the washing," stated Seven.

B'Elanna couldn't help but smile at their ongoing joke, which had begun about two months ago. Seven had been suited up for one of her regular external maintenance missions and B'Elanna had happened by. "Oh, honey, put the washing out while you're there, will you? It dries really well when we go to warp!" she had quipped to her wife. Of course, the Engineer had instantly regretted the joke, as the next 5 minutes had been employed telling Seven about the ancient Earth habit of hanging wet garments out in the open air to dry them.

"If I'm in the way, I can just leave, really," the stout gentleman said sadly, looking from one woman to the other. "I don't want to be a bother to anyone; it's really not what I'm about."

"You come and sit down," Seven replied, wrapping a protective arm around the stranger's shoulders and leading him to one of the four chairs around the counter in the kitchen area. B'Elanna shot a half- annoyed, half-questioning look at her wife as she silently demanded an explanation.

"He was crying," Seven said simply.

"He was what?"

"I was crying," the man said, as helpfully as he could.

"Why?" asked a confused Engineer who was looking at the `intruder' strangely: a dim and distant light of recognition flickered in her head, but she wasn't sure why: "Don't I know you?" she asked as she looked him over, seeing a large but not very tall man, with a long white beard and a smart blue suit. The visitor was silent.

"I found him," said Seven, "sitting by the port nacelle, crying. There were some strange looking quadrupeds with him, eight I believe. They had tall protrusions from the tops of their heads. And, B'Elanna - he wasn't wearing a pressure suit!"

B'Elanna looked at Seven as though she had just been inveigled into a conspiracy, and yet she could Seven's face was serious and therefore truthful - her lover was not lying - somehow that rattled B'Elanna and she turned on the person who had teased her wife. "No suit, huh? Aw, c'mon, that's not possible. How ya gonna breathe without a suit?"

"I don't breathe. I am not corporeal, my dear. I'm not carbon- based, like you. I am omnipotent."

B'Elanna's mouth was flapping at the absurdity of this chubby man and she looked from him to Seven, unsure where this conversation, or indeed this man, was heading. Seven's big blue eyes blinked in complete trust, which caused B'Elanna to exhale in amazement and round on the intruder again. "You a Q?" she asked suspiciously.

"I would not wish to be classed as one, no. They are indeed a source of annoyance to me as they seem to choose to play pranks on innocent beings simply because they are bored!" the stranger said with feeling, obviously disliking the Q as much as some of the Voyager's crew.

"Well, that's a pretty apt description. But if you're not a Q, but you're omnipotent, then what the hell are you?" B'Elanna was holding onto a temper like someone hanging over a cliff might hold on to a greased rope; she was doing well so far, but it was anybody's guess when she might fall.

"Dear lady, I am Santa Clause, St Nicholas - call me what you like, I don't care."

"Yeah, right," she said dismissively, looking at Seven, but Seven's expression told her she believed him, so she took a deep breath in and then blew it all the way out in a controlled way before looking back at the man. "OK. you're Santa," she said slowly, humouring him, "but what were you doing, sitting out there on Voyager, crying?" Without waiting for an answer, she turned to Seven, who was standing behind the unhappy man with a hand on his shoulder, and said, "I can't believe I'm saying this!" and turned and threw herself heavily down on the couch, looking across at the cohorts.

"I was crying because my feelings are hurt," the man explained to the woman on the couch, "they always are at this time of year."

"Why?" asked B'Elanna, not really believing she was asking.

"People can be so cruel," he replied flatly, looking down at his overlarge hands and giving out a sob, causing Seven to place her other hand on his other shoulder to soothe him.

B'Elanna's humanity surfaced at the sight of the man's obvious distress and she got up and moved over to him, looking up at Seven as she did. B'Elanna squatted on the floor in front of the seated man. He might be Santa; he might be an escaped lunatic, for all she knew, but he was in trouble, and that made a difference. "What did they do to hurt you, these cruel people," she asked, placing a hand on his arm to comfort him, trying not to sound condescending.

"People only want me for what they can get out of me, my dear. Sad but true. I'm not loved for who I am." He looked around at Seven and then back to B'Elanna; finding a willing audience, he continued, "They beg and they plead; they promise they'll be good; they tempt me with mince pies and sherry - anything to get what they want and then, when they've got it, I'm discarded and I'm not given the time of day. It's like I don't exist any more until they want something else, next year. Now, how would you feel, my dear," he continued to B'Elanna, "if people put your likeness up all over their towns and cities; made up and sang songs about you; had you believing they really cared about you, and then they just tossed you aside, like you were no one at all. It's all too cruel, I tell you."

It sounded like the kind of speech a Santa might make, but to consider that this person actually was Santa. it was too fantastic, and B'Elanna didn't like being taken for a ride. She said nothing.

"By a week into January, no one even has the courtesy to remember me. There isn't a house I'm invited to, there isn't a single subspace message for me: I'm just not wanted. Anywhere. And that hurts me, after all I do for everyone. I'm a good person, a helpful and kind person and to be abandoned, other than when folk want something from you, is very painful my dear."

The man lifted his eyes to B'Elanna's and the Engineer saw all at once that this was indeed Santa Clause. A very hurt Santa Clause. "I saw your little ship. It was all lit up and looked so friendly and loving, in the coldness of space, that I wanted to connect with it somehow but, sitting out there, I felt more alone than ever and I started to cry. That is when this dear lady," he turned around and patted Seven's hand," found me and kindly brought me in."

B'Elanna tapped her combadge, "Torres to Janeway."

"Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"Captain, could you and Chakotay report to my quarters - there's someone here you may like to meet!"

The Captain had been talking to the man who called himself Santa Clause for about a half an hour before she realised that, without a shadow of a doubt, he was who he said he was. To say she was surprised would be an understatement, amazed better suited her reaction. Chakotay accepted the man as Santa about a half a second before his Captain did, and now the four crewmembers in the Hansen- Torres private quarters were convinced that the fifth member of their group was indeed Santa Clause.

After a further hour of discussion between the five of them, the Captain said, "Well, that's settled then. You are free to visit us aboard this ship any time you like, at any time of the year."

"That's nice of you, Captain, but I'd also like to be invited sometimes. Makes a person feel wanted and welcome."

"Of course," said Chakotay. "Uh, how do we contact you?"

"Oh, that's the easiest part," he replied, looking at Seven, "you just close your eyes and think of me. Then you call my name and I'll materialise where you are. So be sure you can be interrupted when you think of me!"

Seven held the man's gaze and smiled at the obvious implication. "I will," she said.

"And you're still OK about joining us tonight, for a thank you party in your honour?" asked the Captain.

"I am, little Kathy, and I'm sorry that the blue bike you had for Christmas when you were nine didn't last longer. The wheel wasn't supposed to come loose like that." The Captain stared at their guest, open-mouthed. "And that doll, little Anni," he said to Seven, "her eyes were supposed to close when you laid her down; that's what you asked for, but I couldn't read that bit. I only realised my mistake when I saw how you reacted when her eyes stayed open."

The man went around the small group, reminding each one of them about past Christmas times, and his part in their enjoyment until not one of them doubted who he was. He certainly looked a lot brighter and happier now that he had friends who wanted to know him at times other than Christmas. "And now I would like to do something nice for the four of you," he said to them.

"On top of the other nice things you do every year?" asked Chakotay, smiling, "don't you think you've done enough?"

"I can only take two at a time," the man said seriously, as they looked from one to the other, wondering what it could be.

B'Elanna and Seven stood nervously. They were the first of the four to have been selected for some kind of treat, but they had no idea what. "Are you ready?" questioned their rotund friend and, as they nodded their reply, he reached into his pocket and brought out a closed fist and then reached up into the air, opening his fist as he did so.

The resultant fine and sparkling dust seemed to dance in the air, coming slowly down over the two women, settling around them like a sparkling shield. The next moment, they found themselves flying through space, seated in the back of a sleigh. In front of them was the back of a rather large gentleman in a red outfit, trimmed with fur, and topped with a red hat with a fur bobble, and beyond him there were eight reindeer.

B'Elanna slipped her hand in Seven's. "Darling?" she said.

"Yes, B'Elanna."

"You know, you're not supposed to talk to strange men. But I'm glad you spoke to this one." Amidst all the magic, the two women shared a lingering kiss and then sat back to enjoy the strange sight all around them, while a very happy `man' considered that his life could be about to change.

"And I wish to thank each one of you here tonight for your kindness. You have made and old man very happy," said Santa, looking around the crowded Mess Hall. "When you are a kind person and you give to others, you very soon realise that people simply take what you have to give, and then expect that state to continue. There are very few people who would actually think to give in return.

"It is a greedy world. What people have is considered more important than how they are inside. You have all shown me that not everyone is like that."

"But Santa," interrupted B'Elanna, "OK, people can be thoughtless, but nobody knows you have a need until you speak out. Look what's happened here because you made your feelings clear." B'Elanna cast her eyes around the room and found people nodding in agreement. Turning back to Santa she said, "If you ask elsewhere, I'm sure you will receive a similar reaction. They don't know you're hurting unless you say 'ouch', you know."

Seven came up to B'Elanna and slipped a hand around her waist, looking at Santa. "No-one knows where you go when Christmas is over. Make it clear to them that you continue to exist at those times, and that you have needs."

"You know, my dear," said Santa, looking around the room with misty eyes, "I am sooooo much older than any of you and yet today," his gaze settled on Seven and B'Elanna, "the children have taught me something. And I thank you."

"Well," said Captain Janeway, moving towards Santa, and placing a hand on his arm, "as I see it, you only have one thing to worry about now."

"And what would that be?"

"I'm going to ask you to dance," said the Captain with a twinkle, "and I don't expect you to say no."

As the laughter died down and the Captain and Santa began their dance, Seven's mouth found B'Elanna's ear. "Have I wished you a happy New Year yet?" she whispered.

"You don't have to," replied her wife, pulling back to look at Seven with a serious expression. She put a finger to Seven's mouth and traced the line of her wife's lip and then raised her eyes to Seven's. "You are in my New Year. I need nothing more to make me happy."

Seven glowed. "Better than a sleighride?"

"Infinitely," assured B'Elanna as they turned back happily to watch the spectacle of the Captain of the Starship Voyager dancing with Santa Clause! Badly.

The End

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