The transporter room was crowded.
"Chekov, Nurse Chapel and Sulu, you go next,” said Jim and nodded towards the transporter. The line at the door was growing shorter as most of the crewmen were already down on the planet, getting ready for their well-deserved shore leave and Christmas at Lappi IV, one of the first human colonies. Bones had been among the first to beam down, since the colonists had requested urgent medical assistance.
The officers disappeared in the glimmering sound and warm light of the transporter, and Jim imagined he could feel the crisp winds of the planet through the transporter beams. It was winter down at Lappi IV, but the arctic cold did not stop the locals from celebrating Christmas like their ancestors had, years ago on Earth. It was not Jim’s favorite season. Still, he was looking forward to hopefully spending it with Spock. He had prepared a very special gift for the Vulcan, and was only now beginning to doubt if he had courage enough to give it.
Jim turned around to face Spock, who had been standing behind him since the first crewmen beamed down to spend their holidays. In a burst of christmas spirits someone had wrapped a red scarf around Spock’s neck. Jim smiled. A question was forming on his lips, but Spock had an answer before the words came out.
“My decision has not changed within the last 57 minutes, Captain.”
“Spock, anyone can run the diagnostics. Come on, I’ll make eggnog for you!”
Spock merely looked at Jim. His regal eyes spoke volumes, but not a whisper of a possibility of Spock accompanying Jim to the planet below. Days earlier he had stated that he would stay aboard, and the circumstances had not changed enough to require a reassessment of his decision. Several subsystems needed optimizing, and he intended to fully calibrate all scanners as well.
“Fine, then stay here,” Jim huffed. “Chekov and Sulu will look after me at the party so I won’t get into too much trouble.”
Spock straightened his back even further, but refused to take the bait.
Suddenly Jim grinned and jumped on the transporter. “Maybe I’ll have some fun with the ladies, since you won’t be stalking around me.” He nodded at the transporter officer. “Energize.”
In one graceful leap Spock appeared next to Jim, just before they both began to disappear in the golden sparkles of the transporter. Even through the glimmer and bright lights his keen eyes saw Jim’s wide, victorious smile.
The award-winning smile faded as soon as Kirk saw the face of Bones, who was waiting for them below on the planet. They stood in a large lobby, which was decorated festively with bright lights and colors, but Bones was grim.
“Jim, it’s worse that I thought. Unless I take him to the sickbay, Santa will die.”
Jim and Spock blinked in unison. They were barely aware that in the background a choir of children was laboriously stumbling through Jingle Bells.
“He doesn’t have much time.,” Bones whispered and glanced at the children. “I have done what I can for him here, but he needs to be monitored and perhaps operated. If his sickness should spread to the population or the children… blazes, Jim!”
Suddenly a shrill scream cut through the air and the song ended as if cut with a knife.
Within seconds Spock was surrounded. All around the officers swarmed small children, who were tugging Spock’s shirt and eagerly pointing at his ears. The world was full of groping, sticky hands and eyes widened in awe. The dumbfounded look on Spock’s face was priceless.
“Bones,” Jim said while leaning towards the doctor just to be heard, “Take Santa to the sickbay. I think we have a solution already.”
“Yes Sir,” grinned Bones. “I’ll be back once he is stabilized. There is no way in hell I’ll miss this Christmas!”
To keep him busy throughout the shore leave Jim tried to help the colonists. All the time, also while repairing short-circuited generators he occupied his mind by practising for what he hoped would be his Christmas gift for his First Officer.
Spock, he would say, Spock, you have been an excellent officer. You have been, and are, a great friend. You may not understand or approve of this, and let me emphasize that I fully respect your feelings… No, that was horrible. He sounded like a manager preparing to fire someone.
Later, when he was accompanying the Mayor of the settlement on a formal dinner, he let the chatter of the guests wash over him and tried again.
Spock, he would say. Every day I watch you around the Enterprise, I hear your familiar voice and I feel your presence. Lately it has become more and more difficult to work with you, because just the thought of you makes me giddy, unfocused and frankly, needy.”
This was no better. He was a grown man and no horny teenager who got the weirdest boners.
His best idea came while he was reading through the reports sent by the crew still on the Enterprise. He would just say that he loved Spock (The energy use of the transporters had been fluctuating? Jim forwarded the report to Scott.). He would say that he leaves it up to Spock to decide if he wants to make something of it during their mission, or to wait until they’re back in Starfleet. (Extra combat drills were going better than expected - the leading officer had earned a few shifts off). But what if Spock had no plans of going back to Starfleet? Shoot, this would not work either.
He doubted if this, whatever it was between them, ever would work.
Two days later he was still without words, and now also without time. It was Christmas Day.
Jim and Spock stood waiting for their turn. The doors to the main lobby ware slightly ajar, and Jim saw the waiting crowd, now singing, on the other side.
Bones had returned, as promised. His official uniform fit him perfectly and even his shoes shone in the lights of the candles spread around the large area. Nurse Chapel stood next to him in a silky, light-blue gown, every bit as beautiful as Uhura in her short fuchsia dress. A wide, golden belt sparkled around Uhura’s slim waist. She sang along with the colonist, and her pure voice carried over the hall.
As the song ended, Jim pushed the doors open.
Santa Claus greeted the crowd in all his red and white glory, sending a ripple of amazement and giddiness through the already excited children. Some of the mothers, and a few fathers as well, were nodding or licking their lips appreciatively at the sight of Jim’s shining eyes behind the old-fashioned eyeglasses.
Behind Santa came the thinnest, tallest, most awkward little big helper the Universe had ever seen. The red coat hung over the lithe Vulcan. Where the Santa had a deep belly-laugh, a true ho ho ho, Spock’s face was as serious as ever. Even the pointed hat he wore seemed … well.. Depressed. The little helper remained standing as Santa sat down and beckoned to the first child standing neatly in line in front of him.
The first child, a plumpy young boy, started to run towards Jim the Santa. With one swift motion Spock picked the boy up and held him still, his short feet dangling in the air. Christmas had not dulled his protecting instincts.
“Spock!” Jim whispered. “Put him down! He’s just happy to see Santa!”
Wordlessly Spock deposited the child back on the floor and proceeded to observe (Spock never watched, he observed) how the young human made his unrealistic wishes to the man he believed was the reborn Saint Nicholas. Spock found it fascinating: The chubby boy likely received a pair of socks and a book every year, which he then would promptly lose, but the next Christmas he still believed.
The next child in line was only a baby, who was carried by a young and attractive woman in a revealing dress. She insisted on sitting on Jim’s lap herself to “keep the baby calm”, but the way she wrapped her hands around Jim and licked her full lips was a clear sign of what she wanted to do.
Spock turned his head away from the crowd and glared at the infant.
It was truly amazing how loud a human baby could cry - and how fast a woman in a tight dress and high heels could move!
“I saw that,” Jim hissed, but couldn’t stop smiling as Spock blinked his eyes innocently and all but pushed the next child in line to Jim.
“Hello, Santa,” started the young girl before Jim had time to even greet her. “Thank you for coming and how are you I have been good this year. I would like a pony, please. A white pony with a dark mane and with a pink ribbon in the tail. Mother says we do not have space for a pony, so kindly also provide stables for her to live in.”
Spock coughed discreetly. “Come here,” he commanded. “May I have your thoughts, little human?”
The girl turned around to face Spock and tugged at her long, dark braid. “Well, mr Little Helper, I actually think that Santa is not real at all and-”
Her words were cut short as Spock placed his hands on the specific points on her face and initiated a mild meld. Her eyes grew as large as plates. There was no doubt that Spock was helping her remember just how “good” she actually had been during the last year.
Spock nodded in satisfaction. “She is lying,” he announced and ended the meld.
Slowly, almost in a daze, the shocked girl turned back to Santa, shook her head in disbelief and hurried away after a hasty apology.
And that was only the beginning of the evening.
There were tens of children and too many shameless young mothers, too many hopeful fathers or older brothers who were looking for a shortcut to Starfleet through the bed of Captain Kirk. Even Uhura stopped by Santa to wish for a more comfortable chair, which Jim decided to arrange as soon as he had the chance.
After “Santa” had made his way out and Jim had returned from “a nap” to the crowd, there were too many jolly songs and too many toasts to make. The children had gone to bed, but duty held Jim away from Spock - and from his own bed - until way past midnight. There were speeches to listen, ladies to impress, men to encourage, songs to sing, crewmen to entertain and delicious treats to eat. Ham, peas with real butter, turkey, gravy, casseroles… everything that Bones would never approve to Jim’s diet.
Finally the last dishes were cleaned up and the last notes of “I saw Santa kissing a Klingon” died down. Spock was nowhere to be seen. Exhausted, happy and yet disappointed that he had not had any time with Spock Jim left the lobby … only to bump into Spock in the corridor leading to his quarters.
“Spock, wait,” Jim rasped, his voice hoarse from all the singing and (mostly faked) laughing. “I need to talk to you.”
Spock had already changed to his civilian clothes. He looked stunning in his clothes of black and dark blue, but Jim had no energy to stare.
“Spock, listen. I wanted to make this special for you, for us, but it seems we never have the time. I have feelings for you. I would like to be your boyfriend, husband, mate, companion… whatever you Vulcans call it. Excuse me.”
Jim covered a slightly drunken hiccup with one hand and leaned against the wall with another. Spock’s scent was intoxicating. The Vulcan seemed to radiated energy and warmth, and strength returned to Kirk’s body.
“What it comes down to is that I love you and I want you and well, the way you’ve been staring at me and the way you acted tonight, mr First Officer, I think that you feel the same way about me. And I think that you know that I know.”
Jim caressed Spock’s cheek softly, and then pressed his fingertip to Spock’s nose.
Spock grabbed Jim’s wrist and pulled the Captain against him in a fiery embrace. “I love you too, Jim,” Spock whispered.
“I love you,” Jim admitted and nuzzled Spock’s neck. “Merry Christmas.”
Spock kissed Jim’s lips. His fingers found Jim’s, and their human kiss was complemented with a Vulcan one. His voice was soft and husky.
“Merry Christmas, t’hy’la.”