The Perfect Christmas: A Star Trek Fan-Fiction Story
It all began when Spock was sitting opposite his captain in the recreation room, enjoying a cup of coffee and an evening meal before their scheduled chess game in Kirk’s cabin. It was two weeks before Christmas, and a certain very illogical, very human restlessness was manifesting itself amongst the crew.
“So, I was planning on asking you to do a lab inventory in the next few weeks,” Kirk was saying.
“This close to Christmas?” Spock found himself replying, one eyebrow quirking upward.
Kirk gave him a wide, surprised smile.
“Spock, are we dragging out the human in you after all? I didn’t expect you to bother about Christmas.”
Spock tilted his head to one side. “I understand that the crew is far less inclined towards mundane activities at this time. Logic dictates avoiding such duties until the Christmas fervour has passed, if one desires the job to be done properly.”
Kirk grinned at him.
“Maybe you’re right, Mr Spock – but I hardly expected you to be the one to say it!”
“Perhaps not,” Spock said, but his attention was no longer wholly focussed on his captain. Two short-skirted, long-legged figures had just come into the room, and he recognised Lieutenant Uhura of communications deep in conversation with Nurse Chapel from sickbay, both seemingly oblivious of the room around them.
“Oh, I just miss proper Christmases, you know,” Chapel was saying in a tone of what Spock deduced to be false cheeriness. “Presents under the tree, all the family together. Just having a tree would be nice. I don’t think I’ve seen one since I signed aboard this ship…”
“Well, this is a big ship, honey,” Uhura said with a smile, touching a hand to her arm. “There must be something on board that we can use to mock up a Christmas tree with. I wouldn’t be certain that there isn’t a fake one somewhere in the storerooms…”
“A fake one,” Christine echoed. Spock had become experienced enough at reading human intonation to tell that the idea filled her with dismay. “Well, I – guess we could have a look…”
Spock turned back to Kirk, but his attention was still not fully upon the captain. Miss Chapel’s tone of voice seemed to echo in his head.
A lack of morale, he thought. She is displaying a distinct lack of morale. What lowers morale in one crewmember often lowers morale in many. Low morale impedes the efficiency of the vessel. The logical solution would be to attempt to raise morale.
“I’m sorry we won’t be at Vulcan through Christmas,” Kirk was saying, and Spock recalled that the ship was due to dock at the planet for twenty-four hours at the end of the week. “But you can at least beam down and see your parents for a few hours. I’ve already approved the leave time.”
“Of course,” Spock nodded, deep in thought. “Yes, Captain. A visit to Vulcan at this time will be – very useful.”
Spock stood in the centre of a scene that was most unVulcan, despite the fact that he was very definitely on his home planet. The slope he stood on was steep, sparsely grassed and patched with rocky outcrops of reddish stone. Snow lingered in shadowed places and caught between blades of grass, and there was a palpable chill in the astonishingly thin air. But the most unVulcan presence of all in this place was the scattering of tall, resolutely green pine trees that stood as if frozen beneath the windless sky.
Spock was wrapped up as if about to embark on an arctic expedition, his hands deep in insulated gloves and a scarf wrapped about his face. The woman beside him was wearing nothing more sturdy than a rather thicker than usual coat and a woollen hat. She turned to the tall Vulcan beside her, and smiled, her face flushed pink in the cold air.
“What do you think of that one, Spock?” she asked, gesturing towards a graceful tree only a few yards away. The tree was a little over twelve metres tall, and the light dusting of snow on its needles glittered with an odd amber and pink under the red sky.
Spock’s practised Vulcan gaze took in the dimensions of the tree with unsurpassed accuracy, superimposing it on the main cargo hold in the Enterprise.
“It is symmetrical, healthy, and of adequate size,” he nodded. “That one should be just what is required, Mother.”
His mother turned towards him with a bright smile.
“It’s been a while since I’ve picked out a tree from this plantation, Spock,” she said wistfully. “I’m glad it will be enjoyed.”
“It will be enjoyed by over four hundred humans,” Spock nodded. “A larger audience than it would hope to get in your home here.”
His mother nodded with a satisfied smile.
“I’ll have it cut and transported to your ship,” she promised. “Now, let’s get inside before you catch your death of cold.”
Spock turned a tolerant gaze on his mother, before reaching a gloved hand into his pocket and drawing out a small, gaily-wrapped gift.
“Something for Christmas Day,” he said in an undertone, almost as if he was afraid of being overheard. “Happy Christmas, mother.”
Amanda smiled, taking the gift and putting it carefully into her own coat pocket.
“Thank you, Spock. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll treasure it. Now, I have something for you in the house, so let’s go inside and get warmed up.”
“A – Christmas tree?” Kirk asked in astonishment, staring up at the majestic pine that stood against the end wall of the ship’s largest cargo bay. The tree sparkled under the light, its branches decked with ornaments and tinsel. “Spock, where in the Sahara that is Vulcan did you find a Christmas tree?”
Spock’s eyebrow rose.
“It is a misconception that the entire of Vulcan is arid desert,” he said. “Vulcan could hardly sustain its current population without areas of cultivation. Of course, it is also a misconception that your Sahara desert is barren. It actually harbours over one thousand different –”
“Spock, the tree,” Kirk prompted him. “Say what you like, but I can’t believe that pines are native to Vulcan.”
“They are not,” Spock said, shaking his head. “Although they are surprisingly well-suited to certain areas. My father bought some land in the Arlon mountains and had a small plantation of Norwegian pines set up. My mother missed having a Christmas tree,” he said, as explanation.
“So – you grew up having a Christmas tree every year – on Vulcan?” Kirk asked in surprise.
Spock inclined his head.
“I did,” he said, inhaling the fresh scent of the pine needles that was infusing the air, and remembering the occasional times he had spent Christmas at the house at Arlon, with snow on the ground and a rare chill in the Vulcan air. “Fortunately, in recent years some have been allowed to reach a more impressive height.”
“Hence the twelve foot tree,” Kirk smiled, touching a hand to the sweeping green branches.
“I thought the crew might appreciate it,” Spock nodded, although the expression in his eyes seemed to suggest something subtly different from what he had said.
“Well, it is logical to raise morale,” Kirk nodded. “But what about these decorations? Surely they don’t hold Christmas decorations in stock on Vulcan?”
“Indeed not,” Spock said smoothly. “I recalled the decorations that commonly adorned my mother’s tree, and also studied some library images. Then I programmed the specifics into the replicator system, and produced what was necessary.”
“Well, you’ve certainly got an eye for it, Spock,” the captain grinned.
The tree sparkled with festoons of tinsel, reflective baubles and tiny, apparently handmade toys on golden loops. Candy canes were scattered through the branches, and tiny lights glittered on strings that were woven back and forth amongst the boughs. At the very top of the tree a star was perched, that twinkled periodically with an internal light.
“I attempted to achieve a certain aesthetic,” Spock said, regarding his own handiwork with satisfaction.
As they stood gazing at the tree the door opened at the other end of the room, and the Vulcan turned to see Nurse Chapel coming into the cargo bay holding a padd before her, her eyes fixed on the information there.
“Well, I’ve got the third set of readings, Mr Spock,” she began as she walked across the room. “Although I don’t see why they were so important as to –”
As she looked up her gaze lighted on the towering, glittering tree at the end of the room, and her eyes seemed to grow to about twice their usual size.
“Oh…” she said breathlessly. Her eyes went immediately to Kirk, her face splitting in the delighted smile of a child. “Captain, how on Earth did you – ? I mean – it’s beautiful.”
Kirk shook his head quickly, holding up his hands before himself.
“Nothing to do with me, Miss Chapel,” he said hastily. “Mr Spock here is the magician who pulled the pine tree out of his hat.”
He caught the brief look of censure in Spock’s eyes just a little too late. It puzzled him. What possible motive could Spock have for concealing his part in this? Unless he was embarrassed about being caught out in what might seem like sentimentality?
“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Chapel said, the wonder in her voice drawing their attention again.
She stepped forward and touched the graceful, pine-scented branches with outstretched hands. Kirk glanced back at Spock, and saw that he was watching the nurse, seemingly as enraptured by her reaction as she was by the tree itself. Obviously, even after so long on a human ship, human reactions were fascinating to the logical Vulcan. In a more human way, Kirk’s eyes tracked down, to see just how high the hem of her skirt was lifting as she raised her arms above her head.
“Oh, it’s a shame there aren’t any gifts under it,” the nurse continued, without turning around. “A tree like this deserves gifts.”
“Gifts,” Kirk nodded. “And a party going on around it – Christmas music, women in evening gowns, champagne…”
“Oh, a party,” Chapel said in an enraptured voice, turning to him with a smile. “Do you know, it’s so long since I’ve been to a party that I barely remember what one is?”
“Captain,” Spock said, coming alongside Kirk in the corridor with an almost conspiratorial air.
“Yes, Spock?” Kirk asked, looking at him enquiringly, expecting a question about extending the labs’ resources, or diverting personnel to assist with a particular experiment – almost anything but what the Vulcan did say.
“I know of an American tradition of the ‘secret Santa’,” Spock said in a low voice. “With four hundred thirty crewmembers to exchange gifts, it should make an interesting addition to Christmas Eve, should it not?”
“It should,” Kirk said, his surprise plain on his face. “Spock, where have you been learning about all these things?”
“I learned a certain amount from my mother,” Spock reminded him. “But the ship’s library is also well stocked with information on Christian traditions and their derivatives.”
“And how do you propose to decide who gives a gift to whom?” Kirk asked him curiously. “Is it going to be a lottery?”
“It will be decided quite logically, of course,” Spock said demurely. “I will select appropriate pairings. And I thought that Christmas Eve would be a more appropriate time for the exchanging of gifts, since crewmembers may prefer to celebrate Christmas itself in more intimate surroundings.”
“Yes, of course,” Kirk said, feeling more and more bewildered.
“It will provide a pleasing interlude during the Christmas party,” Spock continued.
“Christmas – party?” Kirk echoed.
Spock nodded. “I have organised it quite carefully according to shifts. In my estimation, most crewmembers will be able to spend at least three hours at the party at varying times throughout the day. At no time should the cargo hold reach full capacity – which is estimated at one hundred fifty average humanoids, once the space taken by buffet tables and seating areas is taken into account.”
“Of – course,” Kirk said, staring at his first officer. If he related this conversation to McCoy, he was almost certain that the doctor would instantly pronounce him delusional. “A party – to which the whole ship is invited…carefully, logically worked out to suit every crewmember. Have you included party games in the plans for the day, Mr Spock?”
Spock regarded him unemotionally. “I don’t believe that party games fall within my area of expertise. But I have worked out a schedule of music that I think will be suited to mood and popular choice throughout the day.”
“Right…” Kirk said slowly. “And this will all be taking place in the cargo bay?”
“According to the ship’s schedule, the cargo hold will be empty until stardate 1284.8, when we pick up supplies for the Mantora colony at Starbase 7.”
“That’s true,” Kirk nodded, rubbing his thumb over his lip. “Well, Mr Spock,” he said in a tone of bewildered resignation. “It seems you’ve got it all planned out. Carry on.”
Spock was sitting, again, in the recreation room. He seemed to be spending a lot of time in the recreation room recently, listening to Christine Chapel talking. He reassured himself that it was not eavesdropping, as such. With his Vulcan hearing, it was almost impossible to sit in the recreation room and not hear the conversations around him. He had, quite logically, chosen Christine Chapel as a good representation of the crew’s feelings in general, since it was her complaints that had first alerted him to the morale problem. What would make her happy would probably also make a large proportion of the crew happy, and thus would improve ship’s morale at this sensitive time. He had scheduled his breaks to coincide neatly with hers, and was consequently spending a good deal of time sitting alone at a table sipping coffee or black tea, and letting his ears tune in to her voice.
Today she was sitting with one of her most common companions – Uhura – and discussing, as was usual at the moment, Christmas. Evidently this would not be a trip to the rec room wasted. The Christmas tree in the cargo hold was their foremost topic of conversation, along with speculation as to whether or not it had really been Spock’s doing, or whether the captain was simply being modest. The presence of the tree had, it seemed, helped considerably to raise spirits amongst the crew, and a large number of people had taken to spending their evenings down there, scrounging tables and chairs from other rooms and making their own entertainment there in the glittering presence of the tree.
Quite fascinating, Spock pondered. What are the factors of a Christmas tree that can cause its presence to so enliven the human spirit?
Novelty value, he supposed, along with the symbolic power of a living object against the sterility of a star ship. The ship’s botanical labs held the same pull – as did the view from the observation lounge. Green trees and shiny things. Human happiness, it seemed, was a simple thing.
But then he noticed that the spirit of Chapel and Uhura’s conversation seemed to have taken a nosedive.
“I miss snow at Christmas,” Christine was saying mournfully. “We used to get such great New England snows – it’d drift right up against the door, and we couldn’t get out until dad cleared it away…”
“Ah, we didn’t get so much snow in the United States of Africa,” Uhura said with a smile, her eyes focussed on middle distance as if she was recalling something long ago. “Or at the Academy in San Francisco, either… But I do love snow at Christmas…”
“Snowball fights, wrapping up against the chill, your cheeks red with the cold, and your breath coming out in clouds,” Christine continued, beset with nostalgia. “Is it really Christmas without snow?”
Yet again, Spock found himself emitting a sigh. He finished the last few mouthfuls of his drink, took the cup neatly to disposal, and left the room. Half an hour later he found himself in the cavernous engineering bay, seeking a consultation with Scott.
“Mr Scott, would it be possible, without too much loss of time or efficiency, to lower the temperature in the main cargo hold to a degree suitable for creating and preserving snow?” he asked, once he had persuaded the man to leave the task at hand and give him his direct attention.
“Snow, sir?” Scott asked, looking momentarily bewildered. He scratched his head, and shrugged. “Aye, it’d be possible. In fact, it’s easier to keep a room cold on a starship than it is to heat it, and the cargo bay’s designed to accept a wide variation in temperatures. And snow…” he mused. “Mr Spock, I think it might be just possible to do something with the sprinkler systems, in conjunction with a blast o’ cold air, to create snowflakes…”
Spock’s eyebrow rose, and he came closer to the engineer, peering at the sketches that he was hurriedly making on the datapadd he held in his hand. Christmas frivolity aside, this had the makings of a fascinating scientific and engineering project.
It had taken most of the day to work out the exact specifics for creating snow in the cargo hold, but by the end of his evening shift Spock was content that it would be quite possible to create the effect that he desired. He and Scott had commandeered a small storage room near the outer hull, and at this precise moment they were standing under a flurry of snowflakes that was coming from the fire control system in the ceiling. Spock reached out his hand to capture a flake, and touched it to his tongue in what seemed like the most childlike of gestures. In fact, he was testing the structure and fitness of the flake in the best way he could think of.
“Well, Mr Spock,” Scott said in a satisfied tone. He was standing with his hands on his hips, watching the flakes fall gracefully through the air.
Spock nodded. “We appear to have achieved the desired aesthetic,” he said. “Can I rely on you to upscale the process and apply it to the cargo hold?”
Scott nodded with a grin. “Aye, that you can, Mr Spock,” he said with certainty. “It’ll all be ready to go by Christmas Eve.”
“Experiments must be carried out with the utmost secrecy,” Spock warned him. “The cargo hold is enjoying an usually high amount of recreational usage at the moment.”
“Well, what did ye expect with that triumph of a tree in there, Mr Spock?” Scott asked him. “But dinna ye worry. I’ll make sure it’s all done when there’s no one around. It’s easy enough for the Chief Engineer to section off an area when he needs to.”
Spock nodded again. “Good. I have the utmost faith in you, Mr Scott.”
“Och, well…” Scott said bashfully. “Well, Mr Spock. We’d better get you out of here. You’re looking a trifle blue, if ye don’t mind me saying.”
The Chief Engineer suddenly reminded Spock strongly of his mother. But it was true. It was extremely cold in the storeroom, and Spock was wearing no more than his normal shipboard uniform. As he dialed the temperature in the room back to normal he made up his mind to find his warmest clothes to wear at the party.
“Call maintenance to clear up this water,” he said, nodding at the pool of water that was forming on the floor at their feet. “I will speak to you tomorrow regarding your progress.”
Spock’s next job was to find Lieutenant Uhura as she came off shift, preferably not in the company of other gossiping crewmembers. He found her on the bridge, just as she was standing up from her chair and preparing to hand her position over to her relief. She gave him a stern look as he beckoned her from the turbolift doorway.
“Mr Spock, I’ve had a long shift – from which I’ve just been released,” she warned him in a mellifluous but very serious tone. “I hope this isn’t work related?”
Spock cocked his head to one side, marvelling at the fact that the woman could achieve such a sense of command even over her superiors, despite her diminutive stature. She was having to tilt her neck back to look at him, but the expression in her eyes was one that he wouldn’t want to trifle with.
“It is work related in a sense, Miss Uhura,” he said apologetically. “But I think you will also find it leisure related.”
“Really?” she asked, her interest obviously piqued.
“Really,” Spock nodded. “In your capacity as communications officer, would you be responsible for passing word about the Christmas party?” he asked in an undertone.
“We’re having a Christmas party?” Uhura asked, her suspicion dissolving behind a warm smile. True to her vocation as communications expert she had read his desire for privacy, and replied in an equally discreet tone. “I had no idea that the captain was organising a party!”
Spock let that assumption pass.
“Christine will be ecstatic!” she continued.
For some undefined reason that short sentence caused a sensation of warmth to blossom in Spock’s chest. He pushed the illogical sensation aside almost as swiftly as it occurred.
“Here are the details regarding the event,” he said, handing a disc to the woman.
She slipped it into her computer, and skimmed her eyes over the details on her screen.
“An all day party?” she asked, turning intrigued eyes at him.
“To enable all crew members to attend at some point,” Spock nodded.
“And secret Santas?”
Spock nodded again. “Each crewmember should be informed of their intended gift recipient in a private communication. The selections are programmed into the disc, and it should only be necessary for you to press send.”
“And what’s this?” she asked with an air of intrigue. “Cold weather wear is advised?”
“For those attending the latter stages of the party,” Spock nodded. “In preparation for temperatures as low as twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve got any idea what the captain’s planning?” Uhura asked him in a low voice.
Spock shook his head. “I have very little idea of the captain’s plans for the party,” he said, truthfully enough. “My own task here is to convey this data to you. I assume it will be safe in your hands?”
“Oh, completely,” she reassured him. “I’ll get it out by the next crew bulletin, and everyone will have their secret Santa designations to their private terminals by nine a.m.”
Spock nodded. Uhura’s efficiency was something that he knew he could rely upon. “I have the utmost confidence in you, Lieutenant. Now – were you proposing to visit the recreation room?”
“I was,” she smiled. “Are you up for a little musical entertainment, Mr Spock?”
“I am indeed,” Spock nodded gravely, following her into the lift. “I will fetch my lyre.”
Spock sat in front of his computer terminal, staring at the message on the screen. He had known what was going to be in it – the message was of his own composition. But now he was beginning to have doubts.
The message was logical and efficient. In plain, bold type, it read:
Each crewmember has been selected to give a gift to another at this year’s Christmas Eve Party.
Your Secret Santa selection is Christine Chapel.
Please select an appropriate gift, and place it beneath the Christmas tree in the main cargo hold by the evening of 23rd December, at the latest, with the recipient’s name attached.
Your cooperation is appreciated.
Spock read the message again. He had chosen a secret Santa for each person on the ship. Why had this particular selection seemed logical for him at the time? He had not been inebriated, or exhausted, or affected mentally by any other condition. And yet giving a Christmas gift to Christine Chapel had seemed logical. Kirk was tasked with finding a gift for Spock. McCoy was to find a gift for Kirk. Christine Chapel had, logically, been selected to choose a gift for Dr McCoy. And Spock… Spock had four days to think of an appropriate gift for a human female, to wrap it in a pleasing manner, and to place it beneath the tree at a time when no one else would be present to lift the label and see that the First Officer of the Enterprise was buying trinkets for the ship’s head nurse.
He sighed, and turned his mind to thoughts of what pleased human females. Fashion was always difficult. He knew that women worried about skin tone and other sundries, so it would perhaps not be advised to choose a scarf or some other small item of clothing. He would have more naturally inclined towards some work of literature or music – but here he had very little idea of Miss Chapel’s taste in such things, and what she already possessed. Perfume held the same caveats as clothing. One person’s preferred scent was another person’s stench.
The one remaining item he could think of was jewellery. He had seen small items of Christine Chapel’s jewellery on sundry occasions. He was aware that her taste leaned towards the silver coloured metals, and jewels coloured towards the shorter wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Blues and greens were her most frequent choice. He had seen her wearing both traditional and more modern designs, but always in those colours.
After a few long moments of consideration, Spock went to the small safe beside his bed, and opened it in silence. He drew out a square, flat box of red velvet, and held it on the palm of his hand. After a moment he opened it, and gazed at the necklace inside. The chain itself was thin and delicate, formed of tiny silver links. Their apparent delicacy was belied by the inset at the centre of the two lengths of chain – an intricately woven design of silver in a fluid, roughly triangular shape, made to sit just below the collarbones, following the curve of the breasts to a central point.
The elaborate curves owed something, perhaps, to Celtic design, but they had a style of their own, and were studded with small stones of varying shades of blue. They were, Spock knew, Andorian fire opals, and under the right light they sparked as if they were aflame. The silver they sat in was hallmarked London, 2102, and the necklace had belonged first to an ancestor of his mother.
Spock sat staring at the necklace for a few long moments, and then he shut the box again, and replaced it carefully in the safe amongst the other sundry valuables he kept there.
On the morning of the party, the Christmas tree was living up to every expectation. Carefully set in a nigh-on miraculous mixture of water and plant foods, it had not yet dropped a needle. Each ornament and each flickering light was still just as Spock had placed it there. And beneath it, spreading about the floor like a gaily coloured landslide, was a pile of presents that must number at least four hundred and thirty, if not more.
Not to be outdone by an inanimate object, the ship’s galley had surpassed itself. Buffet tables at the side of the room were laden with snacks and beverages from over fifty different planets. Stacks of cups stood like alien high-rises, alongside towers of plates and seas of cutlery. Chairs were arranged artfully about the edges of the room, with occasional tables brought in from all over the ship to allow people to sit and eat in comfort.
When Spock walked into the room, the place had the appearance of a magical party that had been deserted by the faery folk just before he had opened the door. Logically, and in Spock’s eyes, the room had the appearance of a place prepared for a party that had not yet started. The food was still covered with preserving domes, the floor was empty, and the place was silent. His footsteps sounded unnaturally loud as he crossed the wide expanse between the door and the Christmas tree at the other end.
In one hand Spock held a small, perfectly wrapped package. He gazed at it for just one moment longer as he stood in front of the tree, before bending to place it carefully in the pile, artfully buried under a few of the other parcels. Then he straightened up, turned around, and went calmly to his morning shift.
When Spock arrived back in the room at precisely 20:00, the party was in full swing. Despite the fact that the tables of food must have been ravaged by plenty of crewmembers through the day, the galley staff had managed to unobtrusively replace empty platters and refill vats of beverages as and when needed. The tree was almost invisible at the end of the room, behind the crowds of gaily dressed partygoers who were alternating dancing, conversation, and finding seats at the crowded tables to rest and eat.
Spock had taken half an hour after the end of his shift to change clothes and prepare himself for the party. Although the gathering was all his arrangement, he was not naturally a reveller. His charcoal-grey suit was virtually funereal against the glittering and flashing colours of everyone else in the room, and his inclination was neither to dance, mingle, nor eat. He searched for the captain amongst the milling crowd, and moved over towards him with rigid determination. Most of the people he passed looked mildly surprised at his presence. It gave him a subtle pleasure to know that almost no one suspected that this very human celebration was all down to his manoeuvres.
“Captain,” he said with a polite nod as he reached his side. “Ah, Doctor,” he added, as he realised that McCoy was standing just behind Kirk.
“Spock!” Kirk said warmly. It was obvious to the Vulcan that he had already indulged in a certain amount of alcohol. “Spock, you’ve pulled off a triumph. This party was inspired!”
“It was a logical solution to the crew’s evident lack of morale,” Spock countered.
“Logical?” McCoy began in a lazy tone that was obviously influenced by alcohol. “Spock, didn’t your mommy ever teach you not to lie?”
Spock spared a momentary glance to analyse just what liqueur McCoy held in his glass, and declined to answer. There seemed little logical in indulging in a conversation that would probably not even be remembered in the morning.
He glanced sideways at the Christmas tree, now visible since he was nearer to it. The pile of presents was greatly diminished, but the tree had been spared any ravages of over-exuberant partygoers. Close to it, sharing a platter of food with a sparkling-eyed Lieutenant Uhura, was Christine Chapel, dressed in a sky blue gown that reached to her ankles, but left very little to the imagination around the neck, arms and back. The brief amount of fabric that covered the front of her torso clung to her body like paint. The gift that he had picked out for her suddenly seemed like a perfectly logical choice.
Spock cleared his throat, then said in a raised voice, “Miss Uhura, Miss Chapel. I hope you paid attention to the cold weather advisory in the briefing?”
For a moment Christine seemed as transfixed by Spock’s simple, stylish attire as he had been by her dress that was apparently composed of paint and pure air. He, at least, had the advantage of having seen her before she had seen him.
As Chapel floundered, Uhura smiled brilliantly and nodded towards garments that were draped over the back of a nearby chair.
“To the letter, Mr Spock,” she said in her mellow voice.
“But I think we’d melt right now with those on,” Chapel added brightly, regaining her self-possession.
“A physical impossibility,” Spock said gravely.
“But not a metaphorical one,” Uhura countered.
“May I fetch you a drink, Mr Spock?” Chapel asked.
Spock bowed minutely. “Thank you, Miss Chapel,” he nodded. “I will take an Altarian brandy.”
Kirk exchanged astonished glances with McCoy and Uhura as Chapel left to fetch the drink. Spock caught the look, and explained smoothly, “It is convention, I think, to drink alcohol at events such as these. Thank you, Miss Chapel,” he said as she returned with a glass full of dark, translucent liquid.
He began to sip at the smooth, rich drink, and the more he swallowed the more wholly logical his choice of gift seemed. As the evening wore on the lights began to dim (another carefully worked out part of the day’s schedule), and the temperature gradually began to drop. Spock found himself more and more in absent moments with his eyes turned towards Christine’s painted on dress, and indulging in conversation with her that was more and more relaxed and less centred around the scientific labs and their functions.
Eventually a realisation of the time came upon him. They had less than fifty minutes before the snow was scheduled to begin. He looked down with sudden self-consciousness at the glass in his hand, and then back up at the nurse, aware that he had been engrossed in conversation with her for over an hour. Somehow they had drifted closer to the tree, until they were almost being brushed by its spreading branches, and Spock had grown to be almost unconscious of the others in the room.
“Oh,” he said with uncharacteristic awkwardness, noticing the warm flush in Christine’s cheeks and the light that appeared to be sparkling in her eyes. Evidently she was enjoying herself as much as he was, but now that he had come back to a degree of self-awareness, he was not entirely certain how to talk to her. “I – must speak to the captain about the gifts,” he continued. “Would you excuse me for a moment?”
“Oh, of course, Mr Spock,” she said, the tone in her own voice implying that she, too, had succumbed to that dreamlike engrossment in the conversation that had shut out everything else around her.
“A moment,” Spock said again, then turned quickly and scanned the crowd for the captain. He saw him quickly, not far away, but evidently absorbed in his own conversation with a young female geologist who had not long been on the ship.
“Captain,” Spock said with a raised voice, swiftly closing the gap between himself and Kirk.
The captain turned a disgruntled gaze on him.
“Mr Spock,” he nodded.
“Captain,” Spock said in a more muted tone as he reached his side. “May I suggest that you start to distribute presents?”
“Why me?” Kirk asked plaintively, his eyes flicking briefly back to the astonishingly pretty geologist with an apologetic expression, before fixing back on the Vulcan.
“You are the captain,” Spock said in a level voice. “Such duties naturally fall to you. Each scheduled gift distribution so far has been handled by the ranking officer.”
“Spock, surely you can – “ Kirk began, his gaze ever-straying back to the woman beside him.
“It would hardly be appropriate,” Spock rejoined smoothly.
He could not explain precisely why he was so reluctant to give out the gifts himself. Maybe it was because the human festival of Christmas, although celebrated in his house in a muted fashion, was a long way away from Vulcan behavioural norms. Maybe it was because he felt his own personal awkwardness at the idea of personally handing his gift to Christine in this public arena, even if she would not be aware that it was from him. Whatever the reason, he had no intention of personally overseeing this part of the evening’s entertainment.
“The crew expects the captain to officiate at such times,” he continued. “To have the First Officer give out the gifts, while the captain is present, will seem odd, at the very least.”
Kirk sighed, and flashed another apologetic smile at the woman beside him.
“Captain or not,” he sighed regretfully, “I still have to do as I’m told by my second in command. But wait right here – I’ll be back,” he said firmly, adding in a mischievous tone, “and that’s an order, Lieutenant.”
The woman smiled, gave him a brief mock salute, and nodded her head.
“I’ll be right here, Jim,” she said in a soft, warm voice.
Spock was opening his mouth to query the appropriateness of Kirk’s relationship with a fellow officer when he was suddenly overcome with a flush of uncertainty regarding his own intentions that evening, and fell silent. He accompanied the captain back towards the Christmas tree, and stood quietly nearby as the captain struck a fork rather erratically against the side of his glass, and called for quiet.
“The presents,” he said in a raised voice as silence fell. “I have just been informed by my diligent First Officer that if I don’t hand the presents out now, we’ll all turn into pumpkins.”
Spock glanced at Kirk, mildly concerned. He was obviously a little more inebriated than Spock had realised.
“Captain, on second thoughts, perhaps I should – “ he began quietly.
“Nonsense, Spock,” Kirk said quickly, thankfully in a lower voice. “You just dragged me away from a beautiful lady to do that, and I’m damned if I don’t get it done! All right!” he said, raising his voice again as he lifted a small, garishly wrapped parcel from under the tree. “First up. Lieutenant Catherine Jones. Can I have Lieutenant Catherine Jones, please?”
Spock took a discreet step backwards. The captain was certainly able to project his voice when he wished to.
Within twenty minutes he found himself clutching a copy of Thynar’s latest scientific theories and a scattering of ripped wrapping paper to his chest, and watching the captain with an illogical degree of anxiety as the pile of presents under the tree dwindled. Surely soon that small, impeccably wrapped parcel would be lifted above the captain’s head and Christine’s name would be called?
And finally – literally finally – there it was. The last present under the tree, wrapped in cream paper and tied with a pale green ribbon.
“Nurse Christine Chapel,” Kirk called out. “Nurse – oh!” he said, jumping as she appeared instantly at his elbow. “Forgot you were so close, Nurse,” he said in a conspiratorial tone, before adding in an even lower voice, “In your professional opinion, Nurse, am I drunk?”
She smiled indulgently, carefully taking the present from him before his fingers could crush the bow.
“Maybe a little, Captain,” she said diplomatically. “Thank you, sir,” she added, as he belatedly realised that he was no longer holding the present.
She began to unwrap the present with mild interest. Spock’s eyes were burning on to her hands as they moved on the paper, but she was completely unconscious of his gaze. And then she opened the box, and faltered.
“Oh,” she said slowly, drawing the necklace from its silk bed with hesitant fingers. “Oh, Nyota – look at this!”
An uncertain smile flickered over her face as she examined the necklace, gradually realising that the metal was silver and the jewels were real.
“How beautiful!” Uhura said in a low voice, coming close to her to study the jewelry herself. “Christine, whose heart have you been capturing to get a gift like that?”
“Oh, don”t!” she said, suddenly self-conscious. She almost closed the necklace back in the box, but at the last moment she took it out again, and held it out to Uhura. “Nyota, would you help me put it on?”
She turned her back to her friend and stood there, holding her hair up with one hand as Uhura’s deft hands fixed the string of jewels about her neck. Spock stood watching, transfixed, as the silver metal and flashing jewels caught light from the Christmas tree nearby and reflected sparks of fire over her skin.
“It must have been made for you,” he found himself saying, and Christine looked up, suddenly startled.
“Oh – no,” she faltered. “I think it’s old, Mr Spock. But – does it suit me?” she asked with a hint of shyness.
“It – suits you,” Spock nodded, taking a step closer.
At that moment, it began to snow.
“Oh!” Chapel said, staring upwards in disbelief, the necklace almost forgotten.
The first flurry of snow was joined with more flakes, and then more and more, until the air in the room was filled with tumbling whiteness. Gasps of amazement and shrieks of cold flakes on warm skin began to move through the crowd, followed by the sound of many feet moving as people ran to fetch their almost-forgotten cold weather gear.
“It’s snowing,” Christine said in a wonder-struck voice, raising her hands up into the flakes.
“Yes,” Spock said concisely to her statement of the obvious. He reached deftly for her coat from the chair, and held it out to her. “I believe,” he continued as the music in the room changed pace to something slow and romantic, “that dancing would counter the cold very well.”
“Yes,” she said slowly, as if she was stunned. “Yes, I guess it would…”
For the first time, Spock touched his Vulcan-hot hands to her chilled skin, and almost gasped at the spark of the contact. He pulled her close to the heat of his body, and began to move slowly with her into the swirling mass of snow.
Christmas morning was not usually a solitary affair for Spock. Often he spent the first few hours of the day sharing breakfast with his captain, and often with Dr McCoy there too. The captain always increased the cabin temperature – to replicate the feeling of a real fire pushing out the cold, he said – and always laid on a small but tempting array of breakfast delicacies.
This morning it was already nine o’clock, and it was obvious that the captain was either not awake, or was otherwise occupied. Spock suspected either the effects of a hangover, or the effects of ship geologist Kandra Rawlins. When the door chime buzzed at half past nine, however, Spock said casually, “Come,” without stirring from his deep wooden chair, expecting it to be Kirk who came through the door, full of apologies for his lateness.
As Nurse Chapel entered he straightened in his chair, feeling an odd moment of electricity as his eyes fell on his dancing partner of the night before. He, as always, was dressed in his uniform. He had elected to take an evening shift today, and saw no reason for having to change especially. She, however, was wearing something entirely more casual. It was no evening dress such as she had worn the night before – Spock suddenly recalled a moment during their dance in the falling snow, when she had pressed closer to him, and he had become aware of the nakedness of her skin above her breasts in an epiphany-like manner…
He shook himself, realising that he had uncharacteristically lost his train of thought, and that she was waiting for him to speak. Today’s dress, suffice to say, was pleasing, but altogether more modest than last night’s – and for that he was glad, because he was not certain how he would concentrate otherwise. Last night he had found himself danced away into another world – a very unVulcan world. Very little had passed between them verbally during the dance. They had parted with no promises, and no regrets, but Spock could certainly feel the desire to continue in the same vein. Compared to last night, today the world was calm, reassuring, and very real – and reality was best where relationships were concerned.
“Miss Chapel,” he said with a quiet nod.
“Mr Spock,” she said, coming into his rooms with a slight air of nervousness. “Merry Christmas,” she added with a warm smile.
“Merry Christmas,” he responded, rising to his feet.
The warmth of his wish was reflected in the deep tone of his voice rather than his expression. But he noticed as he spoke that she was carrying a slim jewel case in her hand, and his eyebrow raised very slightly. She caught his look, and opened the case, taking the necklace out and letting it drape over her fingers.
“You know, we have pretty good scanners in the medical department, Mr Spock,” she said with a soft smile, not quite meeting his eyes. “Good enough, at least, to detect Vulcan DNA on an object like this. It’s almost impossible to handle something without leaving some skin cells on it.”
“Well, I – “ Spock began, but he could not formulate a suitable answer.
She tilted her head quizzically.
“You happened to take a look at it for someone else?” she asked in an even softer voice. “You agreed to – assess its value for someone? Vulcan DNA deposited in the last ten days on the necklace. Vulcan DNA deposited going back at least ten years on the case.”
Spock inhaled a deep breath, then said in a measured voice, “My mother gave that necklace to me fifteen years ago. I told her I had no need of such a thing, but she made me promise that when I found a woman I believed to be deserving of it, that I should give it to her. It first entered our family as a marriage gift.”
Christine flushed, trailing the glinting chain through her fingers.
“Mr Spock, you do realise that your mother meant – “ she began.
Spock raised an eyebrow. He touched a finger to her chin, raising her head up gently, and the dark blue fires of her eyes met the brown sparks in his. He had watched those fires sparkling last night, his face close to her face, his lips close to hers, but never quite touching. They had turned and turned under the falling snow, oblivious to the movements of those around them, and her eyes had drawn him into her soul.
“I am not completely unversed in social skills, Christine,” he said in a low voice. “I know exactly what my mother intended for the necklace.”
He took it carefully from her hand and reached to place it about her neck, fastening it with surprisingly deft fingers. Her skin felt cool to his, but he could see a flush beginning as he touched her, as if her heart had begun to beat with extra fervour.
“It must have been made for you,” he said, repeating his words of the night before. “Happy Christmas, Christine,” he said.
He leaned closer to her, and as his Vulcan-hot lips touched hers any hint of snow that had ever been interlaced through her soul was melted away forever.
By Aconitum Napellus
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