The Christmas jingles piped through the comm. system into the hall, and Spock maintained his stoic façade as always. A wash of warmth filled him at the sound, as well as a pang for his lost mother. It was understandable that these familiar tunes should fill him with memories, he knew. Amanda had played them every Terran December in celebration of Christmas, though they were on a desert planet far from Earth. Though the moment was tinged with a bit of painful nostalgia, hearing the songs now cheered him.
He didn’t know every song on the comm. system. He didn’t need to. Like the other crewmen he saw smiling in the halls, there was a simple pleasure in engaging in the ritual of listening to the music. If Vulcans knew anything, it was ritual. Every facet of his society was tinged with it, and though his planet and many of his people were gone, the rituals lived on. That perhaps was the reason why it had been so easy and logical for him as a child to adopt his mother’s few rituals into his life as well. Christmas was a major one.
Spock spotted an off-duty crewman in a red and green sweater and wondered whether that, too, was part of the loose set of holiday rituals. The colours gave that indication. He well remembered all of the various decorations in his own home to that effect, and his mother occasionally layering her Vulcan garb to match red and green. There was no significance to the colour combination on his homeworld, unless they were Clan robes, but certainly it meant nothing in every day wear. Only Spock’s family knew of its hidden significance. The memory of it now nearly made Spock smile.
Jim made his way to the turbo-lift to join Spock, and did his best to hide his displeasure at the music in the halls. He’d gotten the request from Uhura to pipe it in well over a month ago, and had approved it. Starting December first, and all the way through Christmas, all halls and public spaces would be filled with the tunes. Of course, he wouldn’t allow just any music to play. He’d made himself very clear to Uhura that he didn’t want a single children’s song, anything with chipmunks, or anything just generally obnoxious to play out over that comm. system. He should have known to trust her of all people though. At least what was playing now could be termed tasteful in an objective sense.
The music would cheer up the majority of the crew, he knew. Even now, he could see its general effect on crew morale as he passed people in the halls, all of them smiling. Out here in the vacuum of space, people needed to do something to lighten up the atmosphere, and as Captain and leader of these people he knew this was just the thing. Even those that didn’t celebrate the season seemed to absorb the cheerful atmosphere of those who did. But internally, he cringed. He could just remember his sobbing, drunken mother going on about his dead father every holiday season. All the Christmases she’d missed having properly, all tied in with his birth.
He remembered trips to the mall, the sickeningly cheerful music piping in as he was dragged around to get gifts for relatives he only saw once a year and who didn’t know or like him any better. Visiting with his grandparents in a smoke filled room as he opened gifts he frankly despised as he faked gratitude under his mother’s sharp eyes.
Jim shook off the memories and gave Spock a nod. At least he could rely on the Vulcan to remain as Vulcan as ever, and it gave him a measure of comfort. Together, they headed to the bridge.
Jim sat down with his lunch. He’d gone to some effort to avoid all of the holiday-themed options. Which was difficult, considering that Scotty had really gone all out in reprogramming the food synthesizers. Even now, Spock’s own dish of... what was that? Noodles? His some sort of Asian-inspired noodle dish was now dyed green.
“Doesn’t that bother you to eat green noodles, Spock?” Jim asked, eyeing the dish dubiously.
“The colour of the dish does not impact its flavour.” Spock answered with his usual logical detachment. Well, there was that at least, Jim supposed.
His sandwich was safe enough. And he’d even grit his teeth and ordered a side salad, because it had looked innocuous enough. But the entire dessert selection consisted of Christmas cookies and Christmas pudding. Every other crewman had hot chocolate with their meal. And most of what could be dyed had been dyed red or green, or what could easily be cut into shapes had been made into little trees or candy-canes. Jim shook his head at the lot of it.
“And I suppose you approve of this?” Jim asked as Bones sat himself down at their table. McCoy’s sandwich was on sliced bread, not a roll, and so it hadn’t avoided being cut into a Christmas tree shape. His drink was some sort of green juice by the look of it (Jim hoped it was juice), and whatever that salad or stir fry or mix of something was on the side was full of reds, greens, and whites. Jim supposed his own salad was mostly green, but there was only so much you could do to ruin lettuce if you kept everything else off of it.
“I don’t approve of anything.” McCoy griped. “But for once, the hobgoblin is right.” Spock’s brows rose and Bones scowled even deeper so Spock wouldn’t any ideas. “Food is either healthy or unhealthy regardless of what colour it is. To be honest, I’m surprised your plate isn’t loaded up with cookies and chocolate.”
“I’m a Captain of a starship, Bones.” Jim grinned. “Not a five year old.”
“Could have fooled me.” McCoy grunted.
“Have some cheer, Captain,” Uhura encouraged with a warm smile as she sat down and offered him a cookie from a plate stacked with them. Her own tray looked like Christmas had exploded on it.
Not wanting to be rude, and kind of wanting the sugar, Jim rolled his eyes and took a cookie. He tried to keep the scowl off his face as an even more obnoxious Christmas tune started up. He covered his expression by eating the cookie. He noted with interest that even Spock took one. Well, Uhura was a force to be reckoned with, and she was his ex-girlfriend.
“Will you be going to any of the Christmas film showings, Captain?” Spock asked him.
McCoy cringed a bit in sympathy as Jim got a deer-in-the-headlights look about him. Didn’t Spock get the unspoken memo that Jim Kirk really didn’t like this holiday? McCoy took pity and spoke up for him. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking of going to something as illogical as a Christmas movie, Spock!” he groused, taking the focus off Jim. Jim sent him a grateful look and focused back on his lunch.
Uhura, as socially perceptive as she was, caught the exchange. So. Jim Kirk was a bit of a Scrooge. While a bit surprising of the larger than life captain, she supposed it figured.
“I value the observance of Earth traditions,” Spock said stiffly. “After all, my mother was human.”
“I’ll go to one of the movies with you, Spock,” Uhura offered with a smile. “Actually there’s one tonight I think you might like. It’s a musical called White Christmas. It’s a bit more tasteful than some of the children’s movies they’re going to be showing.”
“Why would we waste time showing films meant solely for children?” Spock asked in confusion, momentarily distracted. Jim let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding when Uhura launched into an explanation of Christmas and nostalgia and utterly illogical human sentiments. Jim felt as if he’d dodged a bullet.
Christmas movies, as far as he was concerned, fell into two categories. The first category wasa short list of children’s movies that seemed to be on his home television on repeat around the holidays, probably mostly due to Sam’s insistence. And whenever those came on, he could still hear some sort of bullshit going on in the background. His mother sobbing as she tried to get through hanging decorations, the tree abandoned halfway through. The smell of burnt gingerbread (to more sobbing, usually, although sometimes to the sound of shouting). Frank’s drunk ass shouting at his mother about how spoiled the kids were. A nightmare.
The other type of Christmas movie was the kind with a saccharine, perfect family and their perfectholiday. Those either made him irrationally angry or pitifully sad, and he really wasn’t in the mood to feel sorry for himself if he could avoid the topic altogether. Those families weren’t his family, and this holiday wasn’t his holiday. But as long as he avoided it, that was just fine. He had friends, and a decent life, and he found other ways to celebrate at other times. His true friends had come to understand that about him, and he was grateful. And perhaps most importantly, he reminded himself, he was an adult now, and captain of a starship deep in space. No one was going to make him celebrate Christmas if he didn’t want to.
“Why don’t you come over for drinks tonight?” McCoy asked him quietly while Spock and Uhura were still engaged in discussion. He gave Jim a sympathetic look.
“Yeah, I think I will,” Jim accepted gratefully. He still had days worth of this stuff to put up with, and he needed to bolster himself to get through it. On a tiny starship in the middle of space, the holidays were less avoidable than they had been in college, especially since he was the captain. Captaining a starship was still one of the best things to have happened to him -- but he supposed it had its downsides.
As Uhura passed around a plate of cookies that morning, Spock allowed himself one of the confections under the guise of following along with the rest of the crew. He didn’t usually indulge in sugary treats, but when he tasted this one, it tasted of home. He could still recall Amanda waking up at the crack of dawn to bake, even in the sweltering heat of the desert. The cookies she’d made on Vulcan were remarkably similar to these, even though she’d had to use local ingredients, even though processed sugars were hard to come by on Vulcan. He was only now beginning to truly appreciate the lengths she’d gone to back then in order to maintain her holiday rituals. Her cookies were even similarly shaped like conifers.
Of course there was no hot chocolate in the Vulcan household for obvious reasons. Apparently it was also a holiday favourite, judging by the trays of the crew around him. Chekov had even gotten himself two servings of the drink. So no, there hadn’t been hot chocolate on Vulcan, but there had certainly been cookies, and even Sarek had indulged in the treats. It was, after all, illogical to upset Amanda after she’d gone to such hard work to make them, and it was logical to observe her Earth traditions with the same rigour they applied to those of Vulcan.
Spock had always yielded to the logic of the situation and had consumed as many cookies as he was able. Now once more he yielded to the logic of accepting one of Uhura’s offerings and felt the buttery, sugary treat melt in his mouth, flooding him with memory and feeling. He knew this song as well. It was from an old Terran ballet, The Nutcracker. Although it was highly illogical, he could still see the holo-vid in his mind's eye. His mother dancing around to it, humming off key while she cooked. She’d tried numerous times to cajole Sarek into dancing with her, to no result Spock had ever witnessed, yet she had never seemed to tire of pestering him.
The Nutcracker was the one Christmas film Sarek could always be cajoled into allowing into the household due to its high cultural standard of dance and music. In spite of the absurd story line, it had given Spock a much greater appreciation of Terran art.
Perhaps the crew would be watching The Nutcracker, Spock mused. To his understanding, there were to be nightly viewings of Christmas films in the rec. room. Perhaps Jim would go. It seemed likely. Jim Kirk was a force of nature, and was difficult to separate from his crew even when he should really ease off. Spock could think of no better excuse to see the film himself -- after all, the First Officer should be seen supporting the Captain. Spock suppressed a smile at the thought of watching the old classic with his friend.
He even opened his mouth to inquire about the possibility, but before Spock knew it, the conversation had been redirected and the moment was over. Well, he was certain to see Jim at some point. It was a very small starship, and Jim was never far away.
Jim lounged on Bones’ couch in his quarters, his shot glass abandoned on the coffee table. He was drunk, Bones was drunk, and the Christmas cheer thankfully couldn’t work its ways through the walls. His friend’s constant scowl was a balm.
“Why don’t you keep the rest of the bottle?” McCoy asked, capping it.
Jim knew what it was, and he gave half a smile. “Thanks, Bones.” he said graciously. He knew it was his Christmas gift, but he’d get it early and they wouldn’t mention it again. Jim had his own bottle stashed away to give to McCoy some time around now as well. They’d established this pattern back at the university, and now he was used to staying prepared for it.
This was about the closest Jim Kirk got to exchanging gifts. Receiving them made his skin crawl, reminding him of all the crap his family had given him with threats of how he’d better be grateful, and flippant comments later about how spoiled he was. He would have preferred not to have to thank people he hated for goods he hated, never wanted, and never used. The whole process always left him with a general ick under his skin.
And there had been the cards and gifts he’d been coerced into providing in return. Spending his own hard earned cash on relatives he barely knew or didn’t like. All as part of this ritual from hell. Every single year, the same pressure, the same façade.
Now, he got his friends things if he saw something and thought they’d like it. Not because they were both expected to do it. He thought the gifts meant more this way. But he had conceded to exchanging these pseudo-gifts with Bones for Christmas, and he planned to implement a similar strategy with any of the senior crew who threatened to gift him with something.
“You hear that the hobgoblin is going to the tree decorating?” Bones asked with an incredulous shake of his head.
“Yeah?” Jim asked, then shrugged. “He probably just thinks it’s his duty as First Officer or something. Or maybe Uhura cajoled him into it.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Bones acknowledged. “I’m surprised his Vulcan mind doesn’t explode with all of this music and good cheer. The man probably doesn’t know what to make of it.”
“Give him a break, Bones,” Jim smiled. “Spock probably finds the whole thing fascinating. Or maybe he knows it all already. He seems to know about most things -- certainly more than he lets on. Don’t forget, his mom was human.”
“But married to a Vulcan,” Bones insisted. “And Spock was raised on Vulcan. You saw his father. You think that man had a Christmas tree in his house?”
Jim snorted out a laugh at the image of it. “Maybe Spock’s Jewish,” he offered.
“And what then? You think his mama fed him chocolate coins?” Bones snorted.
“Now there’s an idea,” Jim mused. “Do you think Scotty could get the food synthesizer to make them? How do I find out if Spock’s Jewish?”
“If you want to get him drunk just give him hot chocolate,” Bones griped. “No need to get religion or holidays involved in it at all. Not that I think he’ll indulge you.”
“Hey Bones,” Jim asked speculatively. “About Vulcans and chocolate... it just gets them drunk, right?”
“Do I even want to know what this question is really about?” McCoy asked with annoyance, having a pretty good idea already. He’d heard the most ludicrous rumours about all sorts of species while on Starfleet campus.
“I mean... it doesn’t do anything else does it?” Jim raised his eyebrows as if that made his question more clear.
McCoy rolled his eyes. Unfortunately, Jim’s question was all too clear. “Get your mind out of the gutter, you infant.”
“I’m not sure infants have the same thing on their minds --” Jim tried to argue, to which McCoy responded by lunging at him and wrestling the pillow from under Jim’s head to on top of it as Jim struggled for air.
“It’s for your own good!” Bones shouted. “And the good of the ship!”
Eventually the struggles degenerated into Jim sitting in a dishevelled heap on the couch catching his breath as McCoy lounged on the floor beside it. Both men were a mess, out of breath, and still smiling.
“You think I should go to that Christmas play Sulu is organizing for Christmas Eve?” Jim asked more seriously after a time.
“Yeah, probably,” McCoy admitted.
“Damn.” Jim sighed. “All right. But only because I’m such a good captain.”
Nurse Chapel swayed over to Jim as he leaned against McCoy’s desk in the medbay, annoying him. “Captain,” she said with a smile, “can I interest you in the secret Santa?” she asked, holding out a bowl of folded papers toward him.
“Oh, no thank you,” he deferred, spreading his hands and smiling.
“Oh, come on, Captain,” she urged. “It’s all in good fun.”
“Now what would it look like if the Captain of the crew went out of his way to get a gift for one random crew member and not another?” Jim asked with a disarming smile of his own. “Not to mention the pressure put on the poor sap who drew my name. No, I think I’ll leave that to the rest of you.”
Jim straightened his shirt, eyeing the exit.“And on that note, I think it’s time I stop hanging around here and let you get back to your work,” he told McCoy, and made his quick escape.
Gift exchanges. He shuddered in the hall, letting his amicable smile slip away now that he was alone.
“You get something nice for your aunt,” his mother urged.
“Mom, seriously?” he complained. “I hardly know her, and what am I supposed to get her?”
“I’m sure she’ll appreciate anything,”his mother instructed him. “It’s the thought that counts.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “If it’s the thought that counts, why do I have to spend my own money on her? Why can’t we just not exchange gifts this year?”
“You don’t want to spend your money on your family, is that it?” she asked, a hand going onto her hip. “Did I raise you to be so utterly selfish? Do you think that your aunt asks whether she should spend her money when she buys you something each year?”
“I wish she wouldn’t!” he burst out. “Honest to god. I’m sixteen! Last year she bought me something I would have liked at eight. The year before that, that sweater was so hideous I wouldn’t force a dog to wear it. She’s never once talked to me outside of Christmas. It’s absurd that I should have to spend my money that I earned on someone who doesn’t like me or know me, on someone that I don’t know the first thing about.”
“James Kirk don’t you take that tone with me,” his mother warned sharply. “I don’t know how you turned out to be such a spoiled, ungrateful child, but you’ll find something that your aunt will like and you’ll be gracious when she gets something for you.”
The memory faded as Jim made his way into the turbo-lift and called out “Bridge”, taking the handle. So no, he wasn’t the least be interested in secret Santa. Out here in the vacuum of space, any gifts he’d have lying around to exchange were things he would have saved up for such an emergency, like the liquor for Bones. The idea of giving one of his random belongings to some unknown ensign gave him chills. And being a gracious Captain about receiving some random bauble? No.
Jim stepped out of the turbo-lift and onto the bridge, the cheery Christmas tunes fading away as the door closed. He took his seat as Spock stood by his side and let out a breath. Here, he was home. Space before him, and crew around him. Here, he could almost forget there was Christmas at all, and he was content.
The music continued to tinkle into the commissary. Spock was assembled with many other members of the crew to ritualistically decorate a Christmas tree. Of course, they hadn’t been able to get an actual Christmas tree for the holiday. Not only were they far from Earth, but there were no Class M planets nearby to take a tree from. And no one had thought to pack a fake one.
So now, Scotty and the other engineers had done their best to construct a sort of metal facsimile of a tree. Spock thought it only resembled the conifer in the vaguest sense but the crew seemed to be absolutely delighted with it. Spock decided he couldn’t be too picky. After all, planet Vulcan had hardly come with pine trees. They’d had a small fake tree every year for their celebration -- one of the few frivolities that Sarek had allowed Amanda to keep in storage.
This tree was not entirely without life, either. The botany department had managed to harvest a few things from the gardens and there were little bits of greenery and flowers hanging from its metal branches. Tinkling lights had been installed here and there among the fake branches in lieu of the traditional string of lights.
Every crew member participating in the decorating had been asked to bring an ornament for the tree. Since no real ornaments were aboard the ship, crewmen had taken it upon themselves to improvise. Uhura had a little figurine she’d bought at some planet or space station, and Spock noted many of the other crew members had similar items.
Some of the craft-minded members had created something from materials on hand. Spock himself had made a simple origami crane out of some spare paper he’d had lying around.
“That’s lovely, Spock,” Uhura said as he placed it among the shining branches. “Did you make it?”
“Indeed,” he answered, pleased that the item was well received, although Nyota was hardly an objective judge.
“Wherever did you come up with paper? I thought everyone had moved to PADDs for everything these days.”
“The Captain had gifted me a paper journal and a pen during our last shore leave,” he admitted, feeling unaccountably uncomfortable admitting it aloud. Was it too personal? He still wasn’t certain of the significance of the gift, or Jim’s reason for sharing it with him at the time. There’d been no holiday or fitting celebration that he’d been aware of.
“That’s nice of him,” Nyota remarked, smiling in a vague way. “Are you going to get him something for Christmas?”
“Do you think that I should?” he asked with some surprise.
Nyota considered that. Jim seemed to have some problem with the holiday, or at least with the holovids. But at the same time, he didn’t seem to mind the music piping into the halls and he’d approved every Christmas-related request the crew hade made of him.
And even if he didn’t personally like the holiday, the captain most definitely liked Spock. “I don’t see why not,” she shrugged vaguely. “After all, you’re telling me the two of you are close enough already for him to buy you gifts. Surely you know about the tradition of gift-giving. Didn’t you say you celebrated the holiday with your mother?”
“I did.” he nodded. “Although I believe our gifts were only exchanged between the closest members of family, and were always pragmatic in deference to our otherwise Vulcan lifestyle, though I understand that often times frivolities are exchanged.”
“Well, I’m sure he’s not expecting anything, but if you wanted an excuse to get him something, it’s probably okay,” she supplied, watching him curiously.
“I will take that under advisement,” he answered stiltedly, but Nyota smiled. She could always see through him, and she’d known for some time now of his growing feelings toward the captain.
Perhaps she was correct, Spock decided, and this was the perfect opportunity to reciprocate Jim’s gesture from months ago. A gift. What did he have to give? It would take some contemplation.
For now, Spock stood quietly and observed within his crew members something he’d observed before -- that the holiday season was a time of unaccountable warmth and friendship. Everyone here smiled more often, spoke more positively, and went out of their way to be considerate of others. It was illogical, but it was true.
A giving spirit during the holidays wasn’t unknown to Spock. He saw it every day on the ship this December, in small ways. Gifts exchanged, kisses exchanged under fake mistletoe in the rec. room, cookies exchanged in the cafeteria. If only such kindness could be the default year-round. But then, Spock knew that the holiday season was a time that these humans took to remember intentionally how to be kind. He’d learned as much from his mother.
In addition to her usually giving spirit, over the Christmas season she’d gone out of her way to cook all of their favourite foods, provided them with special treats, gone above and beyond her usual compassion and care.
“Why are we eating so much food lately, Mother?” young Spock asked. “Is there a natural disaster coming due to which we would benefit from putting on extra weight?”
She’d laughed. “No Spock. It’s just what people do at Christmas. Eat, drink, and make merry.”
“That is not logical,” he’d pointed out. “Our nutritional requirements do not change in accordance with an Earth celebration.”
“No, perhaps not,” she’d admitted with a smile. “But for humans, it’s important to set aside a special time to feel good, to feel as good as is possible, with intent. That includes eating favourite foods, eating perhaps more than is needed. Giving gifts, singing songs, being together.”
“I see.” Spock had nodded. “So it is a human meditative exercise.”
“That’s right,” Amanda had said with a twinkle in her eye, and that had been enough to satisfy Spock.
Now Spock recalled her words again. He’d taken time out of his schedule to decorate a metal tree with his crew-mates, to watch several illogical holiday films. He knew that they all saw him there in his official capacity as First Officer and he preferred it that way. After all, how would he live down it being known that he was willingly enjoying something so human? And yet he did enjoy it and was glad to be made a part.
Spock frowned slightly as he looked across the bridge at Jim. That was the one man who had been surprisingly and unaccountably absent from the various holiday gatherings of the crew. Jim hadn’t been there for the films, for the tree decorating, for Nyota’s carolling group the other night, and he knew for a fact that Jim didn’t have anything official scheduled at that time. Well, he must obviously be busy. Spock suppressed a disappointed sigh, but reassured himself that there would be ample time to share this holiday with his friend. After all, Jim Kirk was probably the one person on this ship he most considered to be family. And the holidays, as Amanda had always said, were a time of family. He was determined to share this time with Jim as soon as he got the chance.
After weeks of Christmas cheer, Jim was dead tired from trying to show support, giving smiles to all of his crew members, and just generally trying to be of good cheer. Thankfully, he had a lot of practice in projecting a good attitude and plastering a smile to his face. Now he sank gratefully into his seat in the darkened makeshift theatre as the Christmas play was about to begin. His constant shadow and companion, Spock, sat next to him, a bulwark against the constant tide of holiday cheer. Jim was comforted by Spock’s Vulcan stoicism. He needed it now more than ever. And with a Vulcan, there was no need for him to project enthusiasm he didn’t feel. That calm presence was a balm.
For Spock’s part, he felt nearly the opposite, entirely unaware of his companion’s true feelings about the holiday. For Spock, he was grateful to at long last be able to spend time next to his friend, his closest family out here in the vacuum of space. Jim’s steady presence warmed him, and he reflected on the thought that this was the kind of Christmas Amanda had tried to teach him. One with friends and family near. One wherein he didn’t have to be someone he was not, but only had to share in the experience. Perhaps Sybok had never grown to fully appreciate the holiday, but Spock had, and he knew that Sarek had in his own way too.
The theatre darkened further as the play was about to begin. With such long stretches of time between planets, the crew needed a wide variety of ways in which to entertain themselves, and the drama club was one such outlet. Sulu had been organizing this particular play for months in anticipation of the holiday season. Now, on Christmas Eve, it was the perfect final ritual to hold before the holiday.
Spock wasn’t familiar with this play, although he’d been told it was from a classic Terran film, A Charlie Brown Christmas. What made the translation to this performance even more confusing for him was the fact that Keenser played the star role of Charlie Brown, and it was nearly impossible to discern any of his actual lines. Apparently, though, everyone else was familiar enough with the original as they all laughed warmly at the appropriate times, even his captain. So Spock settled in and enjoyed what he could, appreciating the whole of it as just another quirk of Earth.
Spock doubted very much that the ancient religious underpinnings of the holiday had actually occurred, but he appreciated the sentiment behind the final message of the play. Peace on Earth and good will toward men. And perhaps the most touching part for him personally was the bit about the unattractive tree. Charlie Brown may have been opposed to aluminium facsimiles on principle, but Spock believed that had the character been real, he would have appreciated the tree the crew had put together out of scraps.
When the play had finished, Spock saw Jim eyeing the exits during the closing remarks. “Captain,” he said quietly.
“Yeah, Spock?” Jim asked, itching to leave before the crowd broke and every other crew member would want to talk to him and wish him a happy holiday.
“Would you like to accompany me to my quarters for a drink before retiring?” he asked.
Jim blinked in surprise, temporarily distracted from his escape plans. Spock, asking him to his quarters? Though the two of them met frequently enough for chess, it was always in Kirk’s quarters, not Spock’s. The Vulcan’s rooms were like an impenetrable sanctuary that few had had the privilege of being inside. And to invite him over for something as pointless as a drink? Jim suspected Spock meant tea, but even so, it was enough to captivate his attention.
“Sure, Spock.” he said, and followed the Vulcan out at a brisk pace, well ahead of the crowd.
They reached Spock’s quarters and went inside, Jim having his first real look around the space. It was homier than he’d have expected of Spock. The lighting was dim and the temperature warm. The bed was piled with soft blankets, not just the Starfleet standard, and what appeared to be Vulcan artefacts lined the walls. He wondered vaguely whether they were authentic and how Spock may have come by them.
Spock gestured toward his little couch and Jim made himself comfortable while Spock got them the anticipated tea. It was warm in Jim’s hands and put him at ease.
“Are you having a... happy holiday, Jim?” Spock asked, tilting his head to the side.
“Happy enough,” Jim answered, crossing his legs. And he did feel happy, he supposed. Here with Spock. No music, no lights.
“I hope you will not think it inappropriate then that on this Christmas Eve I have procured for you a gift, in accordance with the ritual of the holiday,” Spock said, reaching behind his chair to pull up a lumpy, wrapped gift.
Jim squirmed awkwardly, his mouth dropping open. He hadn’t in a million light years anticipated this from Spock. He’d thought he was in the clear for gifts this holiday. “Spock I... don’t know what to say,” he stuttered. “I didn’t know we were exchanging gifts.” He took the lumpy bundle hesitantly. He couldn’t very well get out of this now. All of the ingrained distaste crawled under his skin at the reception of an unasked for gift for Christmas.
“You already gave me a journal and writing set in September,” Spock reminded him. “And as the holiday is upon us now, it seemed a logical time to reciprocate.”
“Of course,” Jim said, feeling just a fragment of tension leaving his shoulders. Spock didn’t expect something in return. He wouldn’t, anyway. He was Vulcan, and he was Spock. The man probably didn’t have a selfish bone in his body. And to find out that this was just a logical reciprocation of the gift back in September did help a bit.
Jim carefully began to unwrap the soft thing he held in his lap to reveal a shockingly soft burgundy blanket.
“As I did not have time to procure a new gift specifically for the season, my options were limited. However, I only recently purchased the blanket at the last starbase, and I can assure you it is as yet unused.”
“Spock that’s very generous of you.” Kirk said. “But I can’t take your blanket from you. You bought this for yourself --” he moved to give it back, but Spock gently stopped him with a hand on his wrist.
Spock looked at his friend, his captain, his Jim. He wasn’t as unobservant as perhaps it at first might have seemed. He had begun piecing togetherthat something had been making Jim uncomfortable about the holidays, and given the very small amount he knew about Jim’s past he could only begin to guess what myriad of things might have upset him. But it wasn’t important. He didn’t need to know. All he needed was to be here, and to try and give Jim something to hold onto for this Christmas. Because as his mother had taught him well of these rituals -- they weren’t meant to be practised alone.
“Surak tells us: ‘Reach out to others courteously. Accept their reaching in the same way, with careful hands.’ You should accept my reaching, Jim. I simply wish for you to be... warm.” he said softly.
Jim smiled up at his friend, Spock’s hand still on his wrist, the blanket still in his hands and pooled on his lap. And he realized that this was perhaps the very first sincerely given gift he’d ever received on Christmas Eve. Something cold and hard and immovable in his chest gave way. “You know, Spock,” he said, “I think I am.”