“Captain, I do not understand.” The Captain knew that Spock was interested in cataloguing every type of unknown or rare flora, but the live plant that was currently scattering needles all over the Captain’s quarters was neither uncatalogued or rare. So that did not explain why the Captain wished to show him the large plant, or why the Captain looked so excited about it.
Kirk grinned at Spock, kneeling on the floor and opening a large box that had been placed next to the tree.
“Jim, Spock. I have repeatedly told that in my quarters you may call me Jim. Now, help me unpack this box.” If Spock were human he would have sighed, but he was not human, so he simply exhaled with more emphasis than he ordinarily would.
“I suppose there is little point in my asking why a Puesdotsuga Pinaceae is currently residing in your quarters?” Jim laughed.
“A Christmas tree Spock, it’s a Christmas tree. Humans decorate trees like this to celebrate Christmas.” Spock hesitated.
“You are aware that I have never fully researched that particular Earth holiday. My mother did celebrate a week she called Hanukkah with us, but aside from that I am afraid that I am uneducated in the traditions surrounding Earth festivals.” Spock frowned, but Jim smiled brightly.
“Well Mr. Spock, it seems that I have to duty to educate you in all of the traditions surrounding Christmas, and as a large percentage of the crew celebrates it, it would be logical for you to learn.” Spock’s nodded, bending down to help sort out the jumble of strange objects that were filling the box at the Captain’s feet.
“Most logical Captain, I should welcome the opportunity to learn about this Earth custom. I am half human. Forgive me if I am incorrect, but I believe Christmas is supposed to be celebrated on December 25th. According to Earth calendars, that is two weeks from now. Why are you preparing so far in advanced?”
“Jim, Spock, Jim.” Kirk grinned. “Lesson one: we humans like to put up our decorations weeks ahead of time so that we may enjoy them and get into the ‘Christmas Spirit’ in the days leading up to December 25th.” Spock cocked his head to one side.
“Christmas spirit? I’m afraid I do not understand the term, Jim” The Captain did not miss the fact that his first officer had finally relented and called him by his first name. He did miss, however, the fact that although Spock normally did everything he could to avoid physical contact with humans, the Vulcan allowed their fingers to brush multiple times while untangling a string of what seemed to be small lights.
“The Christmas spirit, Spock. It just means that humans tend to feel exceptionally warm, open, and happy at this time of year. You could categorize the ‘Christmas Spirit’ as the increase of good feelings associated with the holiday.” They had finally gotten the string of lights untangled. “Now Spock, help me hang these lights on the tree.”
“I do not understand the need to expel extra energy on lighting when your room is adequately lit already. It is illogical.” However, Spock stood up holding his half of the string of lights, and did not object when the Captain grabbed the Vulcan’s wrist to leverage himself off the floor.
Spock had recently realized that the Captain’s touch did not make him feel uncomfortable like other humans touches, although he did not understand why. He was currently in the process of gathering more data on the subject, attempting to categorize what made the Spock’s reactions to the Captain so different from the rest of his species. Today, he was intrigued to note, that when the Captain grabbed his wrist, Spock experienced a slight increase in heart rate, and although he was certain the temperature of the room has not changed, the Vulcan felt momentarily warmer. Most unusual. Spock’s musings were interrupted by the Captain laughing yet again, a glint in his eye.
“Lesson Two: humans do many things that could be considered illogical during this time of year. These lights do not serve a real purpose, they’re just pretty.” Jim started hanging the lights on the tree, going in a circle, and enlisting in the taller Vulcan’s help when he got closer to the top of the tree.
“Thanks, I don’t think I could have reached that myself.”
Spock wondered momentarily if the captain had brought him in here simply to utilize his greater height. Although that was a logical thing to do, Spock found the idea extremely displeasing. Interesting again, he thought, why would I find a logical idea distasteful? It seemed he preferred the idea that Captain simply wanted his company for no logical reason. He filed that fact away for future reference. Jim bounded (there really was no other word for his exuberant movements) back to the box, and started extracting small spherical objects that seemed to be made of glass.
“Okay, now time to hang the ornaments!” Spock followed the Captain’s lead and selected three ornaments from the box, inspecting each closely.
“These are most aesthetically pleasing,” Jim beamed like his first officer had just given him a huge compliment.
“I’m glad you like them Spock, most of them used to be my grandmother’s.”
“In that case, I will handle them with extra care.” Spock carefully placed the three ornaments around the tree, and went back to the box to get more. “Is it typical for humans to pass ornaments down by generation?”
“It’s not required, but some of us like to. We also like to give each other ornaments as gifts sometimes.” Jim replied. They continued hanging ornaments in silence for a while, Jim placing his rather haphazardly around the tree, and Spock carefully placing his ornaments to ensure that every foot of the tree had equal coverage. Spock discovered that there was a distinct feeling of satisfaction that arose as the tree slowly became covered in decorations. He quietly broke their silence.
“I am beginning to understand why you humans find this enjoyable, Captain.” He knew he had said the right thing when his Captain’s face lit up with pleasure at his words.
“Traditionally, we humans decorate their tree as a shared activity with our closest family members.”
There was no doubt this time, Spock definitely experienced an increase in warmth at the human’s words. The Captain was saying that he considered Spock to be the closest thing he had to family on the Enterprise.
“I am honored.” Spock replied, and Jim paused, softly squeezing his first officer’s hand before returning his attention to the tree.
The Vulcan was slightly alarmed at the increase in his heart rate at this touch, and hoped the Captain wouldn’t noticed that his cheeks flushed slightly. The Captain couldn’t be making him sick, could he? No, although the symptoms associated with Jim’s touch were unusual, Spock immediately discounted illness, as his responses were certainly not unpleasant. Indeed, he seemed to want his Captain to repeat his actions. Most curious.
The box was almost empty; the only thing left was a large golden star that shimmered slightly when Spock picked it up.
“What is the purpose of this object? I do not see a string from which to hang it.” There was a hollow cylinder attached to the back, but Spock wasn’t sure what its purpose was.
“That’s the finishing touch, Spock.” Jim smiled again. He seemed to do that quite frequently when his first officer was around. “You can put it up.” He explained that the cylinder was there so that the star could be placed upright on the very top of the tree. Spock slowly reached up and with great ceremony settled the golden star in its honored place. He stepped back to survey their handiwork, but Jim turned him around.
“Hold on Spock, don’t look just yet.” The Vulcan remained facing away from the tree. Jim quickly plugged in the string of lights, then spoke to the ship.
“Computer, lights ten percent. Play disk number 15034, song 3.” The lights in the room dimmed, and a song with tinkling bells and a harp began to play softly.
“Lesson three Spock: humans also like to play music associated with Christmas to accompany the tree.” Jim put his hand on Spock’s arm.
“You can turn around now.”
Spock turned and looked, and was surprised by how much of a difference the dimmed room and multicolored string lights made. The tree glittered, the ornaments sparkled and the gold star gleamed at the top. Both men stood still for a moment, enjoying the tree they had made together.
“Jim, I believe you misspoke earlier, ” Spock said. Kirk looked at him in confusion, and the Vulcan continued. “I do not believe that these lights or the tree can be categorized as merely pretty. It would be more proper to say that they are beautiful.” Jim’s face lit up brighter than the tree, and Spock noticed that his Captain’s face was even more aesthetically pleasing with a smile stretching his features. The human put a hand on the Vulcan’s arm.
“Lesson four: Humans like to give their companions gifts on this holiday. Those who do not celebrate Christmas, like you, are not required to reciprocate, but we still enjoy giving even to those who do not participate anyways.” For the first time that day Jim sounded slightly shy. “Would you like to spend some time with me on Christmas so that I may give you a gift?”
Spock had recently broken his lyre by using it to render a Klingon unconscious (he had brought it to play at what was supposed to be a diplomatic dinner, and he could have subdued the Klingon without it, but the Klingon had been attacking his captain and he had simply reached for the closest thing in an effort to remove Jim from danger). He was not aware that Jim had selected a new, beautiful black and silver embellished lyre from Vulcan the very next day.
“I would most enjoy spending time with you on Christmas, and I would be honored to take part in that tradition, although it certainly was not necessary to procure a gift for me.” Jim smiled and slowly released Spock’s arm. For some reason the first officer found that he objected to this loss of contact.
“Not necessary, but I wanted to.”
Over the next two weeks, Spock was careful to pay attention to the changes in the crew. This was his first year on a starship, and he had never had the chance to observe so many humans celebrating a holiday. It seemed that the Captain’s idea of “Christmas Spirit” was indeed true, there was a twenty percent increase in the number of times the humans smiled, and the Christmas music that the Captain had taught him about was everywhere. Lieutenant Uhura in particular constantly hummed various holiday tunes. Also, apparently the holiday allowed the regulations on attire to be relaxed somewhat, as Spock observed many cadets to be wearing red and green hats, and occasionally false antlers for some bizarre reason. When he asked the captain why crew members would want to wear something as cumbersome and strange as antlers, Jim had laughed so loud the entire bridge turned to stare at the two men.
More importantly, Spock had noticed that James T Kirk laughed 40% more frequently when he was conversing with the Vulcan than with any other member of the crew, and he smiled so frequently it was impossible to calculate the frequency change. Spock also noted that while on the bridge, the captain checked on the science station 47.47% more frequently than he did any other station, and the science station was the one that logically, needed the least attention.
Also, Jim seemed to constantly reach forward as if to lay a hand on Spock’s shoulder, or touch Spock’s hand before restraining himself. Although that was unprofessional behavior, Spock did not mind at all when the Captain forgot himself occasionally and did touch his first officer. The captain also stood on average, 5.347 centimeters closer to Spock than he did other members of the crew, which was 8.983 centimeters closer than Spock allowed other humans to be to him.
Spock needed more data. He done more thorough research on the human festival of Christmas, and formed a plan in order to obtain that data he so desperately needed. He ordered one item from a replicator, and also began working on a gift of his own for Jim.