It’s going to be the best Christmas ever, Jim Kirk thought. He eyed the crewmembers bustling back and forth to and from the transporter room. Most carried tightly packed duffle bags; a few carried blatantly misshapen packages. He rubbed his hands together. Best Christmas ever, he thought again, and let loose what could only be described as a thoroughly soppy grin.
“Captain,” said Spock, gliding up to him with the grace of a dancer and the posture of a lamppost. “I have finalized the shore leave rotations.”
“Mmm,” Kirk replied. Then, waving his arm at the general direction of the chaos surrounding the beamdown of over four hundred crewmembers he said, “Best Christmas ever, Spock.”
“The shore leave rotation approval will not sign itself, Captain,” Spock said.
“All right, all right. Stop looming. Here, give me your stylus.” He plucked it out of Spock’s unwary fingers and Spock attempted to ignore it when Kirk’s fingers flickered briefly over his knuckles. He could not contain the tiny flush that spread across his cheekbones, and hoped, most illogically, that the lighting of the transporter room would be sufficient enough to hide it from Kirk’s notice.
A sly grin grew at the corner of Kirk’s mouth. He looked up at Spock from underneath his eyelashes, fluttering them slightly, “Warm in here for you, Mr. Spock?” he asked lightly.
“Captain, do you have something in your eye?” Spock queried, grabbing back the stylus as soon as Kirk had finished scrawling his name across the bottom.
Kirk slumped a little, “Not a romantic bone in your body,” he grumbled.
“Fortunate,” noted Spock, folding his hands behind his back and safely out of the range of Kirk’s wandering grip.
Kirk glared at him half-heartedly for a moment, then perked up again. “Well,” he said enigmatically. “We’ll see about that. This Christmas,” he stressed, “Is going to be the best ever. And,” he leaned closer to Spock, who could now feel his hot breath whispering across his face. Spock swallowed. “And,” Kirk repeated. “There will be holiday cheer,” Kirk inched closer, “romance,” he trailed a hand up Spock’s arm, “seduction,” he leaned his forehead against Spock’s, their lips nearly touching. “And the best part,” he whispered.
“The best part?” Spock said hoarsely.
Kirk’s eyes twinkled as he murmured, “And of course the very best part . . .”
Spock waited with baited breath.
“Seasonally flavored hot drinks!” Kirk said brightly, stepping quickly away from Spock.
Spock blinked at the sudden absence of Kirk’s warmth, then narrowed his eyes. “Jim,” he started menacingly.
“Now, now, Darling, not in front of the crew,” Kirk said, taking another step back.
Spock drew himself up with a valiant attempt at an emotionless -- yet suitably impressive -- imperious glower. Unfortunately for him, all it really ended up looking like was a vaguely constipated pout.
Entering into the Transporter room behind them, McCoy made a gagging motion, and Uhura slapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle.
“Out of the way, Worst-Kept-Secret-In-Starfleet,” McCoy demanded, as soon as it became apparent that just because Spock was slightly put out with Kirk, it didn’t mean that they weren’t going to stare into each other’s eyes for a good long minute anyway. “Sweet Georgia, here I come,” he said, settling his suitcase down near the landing pad. “Hurry up, Scotty.”
“I can’t,” came Scott’s muffled voice from behind, and also under, the controls. “Cap’n hasn’t signed off on the rotations yet. Also I’m thinking a screw might be a wee bit loose down here.”
“It’s not the only screw loose down there,” McCoy muttered as a muted thump and then gratuitous amounts of swearing came from the consol. He shifted his feet impatiently. “Hurry up, Jim,” he said. “Joanna’s expecting me exactly at 12:30 – and I swear sometimes that girl was switched at birth because she is goddamn always on time.”
“Weird,” Jim said, tearing himself away from Spock long enough to sign off on the PADD with a flourish. “It’s signed now. Go have fun or, you know— drink a lot. Whatever.”
“Much obliged,” McCoy drawled, tipping an imaginary hat. His expression shifted to something more serious, “Have a good holiday, you two,” he said, briefly clasping Kirk’s forearm. “And try for god sake to relax a bit, will you? You deserve it after the time we’ve had.” He nodded to Spock, who stood behind Kirk, hands behind his back. “That goes for you too, you know,” he said. “And don’t let this one do anything too stupid.”
“And for a moment there I thought we were going to have nothing but touching sentiments,” Kirk sighed mournfully. He grinned at McCoy’s scowl. “Have a good one too, Bones,” he said.
“Indeed,” said Spock. “Convey our respects to Ms. Joanna as well.
“She’ll be overjoyed,” McCoy said sourly.
A triumphant shout echoed from the bowels of the transporter consol, and Scotty emerged, hair askew, gripping a wrench fervently like it was a gift from the gods themselves.
“She’s all fixed up now,” he said, casting a disturbingly doting grin over the transporter equipment.
“Great,” McCoy said, although he looked a bit dubious. “Well then,” he said, stepping onto the pad. “Energize.”
As McCoy’s form vanished, Kirk looked at Spock. “Come on,” he said, tugging Spock’s sleeve, “We’ve got to go pack.”
The first time Jim had queried if Spock would like to spend Christmas in a cabin with him, Spock’s answer had been a very succinct “No, Captain.” Spock had then proceeded to spend the entire shore leave alone and aboard ship, blissfully ignoring the fact that Christmas – or any other winter holiday for that matter – existed.
The second time Jim had asked, Spock had actually agreed – until he came down with Rigellian Flu about two days before ‘leave. Spock had also spent that particular shore leave aboard ship, although to be completely honest, he could not recall the majority of it.
The third time, Spock, freshly recovered from a bout of hypothermia, reserved a small cottage on the Hawaiian Islands – the rental time of which happened to coincide with both their shore leave and the winter holidays – a fact which he may have managed to oh-so-casually mention to the Captain over a game of chess – thankfully before Jim could get any overly idealistic ideas about snow covered rooftops and crackling fires.
Jim had looked a little hurt, if Spock was interpreting the emotion correctly, so Spock had added a hasty “Of course, I would not be averse to company, Captain.” And while half of him (likely that traitorous, human half) had experienced an emotion that made his stomach feel oddly as though there had been an injection of helium that was headed straight for his brain, the rest of him (the much more sensible, Vulcan half) had immediately regretted his offer as first Jim gripped his hands enthusiastically, and then used Spock’s understandable distraction against him as he proceeded to capture his last remaining knight and checkmate his king.
The natural outcome of this “Hawaiian Adventure” as the Captain had insisted on calling it, had involved Spock having to endure a full week of his captain running around in public wearing only a pair of bright red swimming trunks covered with patterns of violently orange hibiscus flowers; first because “It’s tropical, Spock! And we’re on vacation!” and then because the Captain’s horrific sunburn made wearing a shirt nearly impossible.
Alas, this year it was to be the winter cabin. The winter cabin in Michigan, no less. (“Right next to the lake, Spock! It might be frozen though . . .”). But Spock had agreed to accompany the captain. He would even have agreed had the captain not been his, well, his— had they not been keeping company of the intimate variety for the past few months. So this time, there was to be no backing out. If Jim wanted Christmas in a winter cabin, then Spock would give him that. Even if it did mean that Spock had to wear at least two sweaters, and fingerless gloves, for the majority of the trip.
Given that Spock was less than pleased with the very idea of their accommodations, the reality of them was much, much worse.
“Where is the . . .” he trailed off, gazing at the relatively sparse interior of the cabin. There was a main room, with a couch and two chairs. A faded rug. A single bedroom, and a small bathroom connected to it. “Where is the technology?” he queried.
Jim laughed, and squeezed Spock’s hand. “Come on, Spock!” he said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to do these things the old fashioned away. Look,” he pointed. “There’s a whole shelf of books to keep us entertained. And a vid set, at least. You’ll be fine, it’s only for four days.”
Spock raised an ambiguous eyebrow before wandering into the kitchen. Once inside, he stopped dead. “Jim,” he said. And his voice was so serious that Jim immediately straightened from where he had been bent over the suitcases, to rush after him.
“What? What?” he said, socks skidding on the tiled floor.
Spock turned to him. “Whomever you bartered with to secure this cottage has clearly swindled you,” he declared.
Jim blinked, his heart rate recovering from its sudden spike. He ran his hand through his hair. “What? Why do you say that?”
Spock pointed. “There is no replicator,” he announced, and Jim half expected a peal of ominous thunder to follow his words.
After a moment of attempting to think up a suitable reply to Spock’s apparent pronouncement of doom, Jim snickered. “Don’t be so dramatic,” he said. “It’s fine. There’s a stove, an oven, and a refrigerator. We’ll just take turns cooking, that’s all.”
There was a brief silence. Spock crossed his arms and didn’t look at him. Jim took a step closer to Spock, “What is it?” he said, resting his hand on Spock’s shoulder.
“It is of no importance,” Spock said.
Jim rolled his eyes. “Just spit it out, Spock,” he said. “I thought you’d like to cook – all that chemistry you do, you know?”
Spock’s shoulders slumped. “I have never cooked before,” he confessed.
Jim’s eyes widened. “Really? That’s—” he stopped, then smiled apologetically, “That’s actually not all that surprising.”
Spock glared at him. “Can you cook?” he asked pointedly.
Jim scowled, “Of course I can,” he said, voice defensive.
Spock looked at him. “And what,” he said, in very measured tones, “do you cook?”
Jim squirmed a little. “You know,” he said. “Eggs. Toast. Sandwiches, cereal-”
“Cereal does not require cooking.”
“Oatmeal does,” Jim shot back.
“Not the maple and brown sugar instant variety, the consumption of which you most frequently adhere to,” Spock retorted. “The one with the overly emotional elderly gentleman on the front of the package,” he added, to make sure Jim knew exactly what he was talking about.
Jim frowned. “Whatever,” he said, waving his hand. “The point is, there’s a whole kitchen here, and we’re not going to starve.” His gaze brightened. “We can even make holiday recipes!” he said. “There’s got to be a grocery store in the town a few miles down, and if we need to pick up some food anyway, it might as well be seasonal.”
Spock sighed, clearly sensing that he was losing this battle. “Very well,” he said. “But I refuse to consume any ‘roast ham’ or ‘honeyed turkey.’”
“Honeyed ham,” Jim corrected.
“Regardless,” Spock said. “I shall not be eating it.”
Jim chewed the inside of his cheek in thought. “That’s fine,” he said. “We’ll figure something out.”
The visit to the grocery store was a lot more involved than Spock had initially predicted. From what he had known previously of the process, it tended to involve a few moments of brainstorming, and a list.
Jim’s approach was, of course, completely different.
“Here’s the cookbooks,” Jim panted, dumping a set of tattered, actual paper books onto the table. From the looks of things, it appeared that he had liberated literally a full third of what used to be on the bookshelf. “We can just flip through them and decide on what we want to eat,” he said. “And then write down the ingredients.”
And while Spock could not exactly fault his logic on this matter, apparently even the preparations for cooking – “and baking, Spock! We’re definitely making Christmas cookies.” – were more difficult than immediately assumed.
“What the hell,” Jim said, “is cream of tartar?”
Spock blinked at him, then flipped to the back of the book he was holding in vain hope that there might be a glossary of terms. “I am unsure,” he said finally, after having all his hopes dashed by a single page index.
“Is it a cream?” Jim wondered. “But I feel like these cookies aren’t really creamy, you know— Spock, are you listening?”
“Affirmative,” Spock replied automatically, which was not technically a lie. He was listening. He just wasn’t paying undue attention to whatever was being said.
He pushed a recipe for meringue under Jim’s nose. “Jim, how do you supposed one separates egg whites from yolks?” he said. He pursed his lips in thought. “It must be a very involved process,” he decided. “Perhaps this recipe is too advanced for us.”
After one hour and forty-three minutes of consultation, the list was complete.
The shopping expedition itself was an elaborate two hours of traipsing up and down the same twelve isles until they had finally, finally, exhausted both the contents of their list, and the grocer’s assistant.
After that, Spock thought with misplaced relief, everything else would be – to borrow a phrase from the doctor – easy as pie.
“Spock, we have a problem,” Jim said, bursting into the bathroom during a time in which Spock would have much preferred to enjoy his privacy. “My cinnamon rolls aren’t rising. I’ve been letting them alone for hours and they’re just flat little pinwheels!”
“Out,” said Spock, reflexively gripping at the pants around his ankles and attempting to pull them up while still seated.
Jim rolled his eyes, “I know you poop, Spock,” he said as he banged out of the room. “Jesus Christ.”
When Spock eventually emerged into the kitchen, he found the captain of the Enterprise in the middle of a conversation with his mother.
“So basically,” Jim was saying, “I was supposed to feed the yeast and keep it warm? That wasn’t in the instructions!”
“I could have told you that,” Spock said not at all snidely. It was just, he had conducted many experiments with yeast in the past, and all of them had involved ovens and nutrients. That was all.
“Morning, Spock,” Winona said from the vid screen of Jim’s non-Starfleet issued communicator. “Jim tells me you hate it when he walks in on you on the toilet. Don’t feel bad,” she said as Spock’s cheeks tinged a darker shade of green, “I hate that too. And yes, Jimmy, you’re supposed to mix the yeast with warm water and add some of the sugar in there to feed it.”
“Huh,” Jim said. “Well, I guess I can try baking them anyway, see how they turn out. Thanks.”
After thirty minutes, the rolls were not unlike soot-covered rocks. Spock tapped at one with his finger, and shook his head. In mute agreement, Jim unceremoniously dumped them into the trash.
They ate oatmeal for breakfast.
Lunch was a very conservative peanut butter and jelly for Jim, while Spock sipped a horrid concoction he had stumbled upon at the grocery store that marketed itself as “Instant Plomeek.”
“You know, I’ve never asked,” Jim said, attempting to separate the plasticky branches of their plasticky Evergreen-From-A-Box and then wrestle a string of brightly colored 0.99 credit decorative beads over them. “Did you ever, I mean- did your family ever celebrate Christmas? You know, when you were little?”
“Christmas is an Earth holiday,” Spock replied. “It would have been illogical to celebrate it on Vulcan.”
“Oh,” Jim said. Then, “That’s not a no.”
“True,” Spock allowed. He closed his eyes for a moment. “My mother did not celebrate Christmas,” he said. “However she—” he hesitated, “She sometimes insisted on celebrating Hanukkah.” He looked down at his hands. “She was oftentimes very enthusiastic during these celebrations. My father thought it most unseemly.”
Jim’s arm snaked around Spock’s waist to pull him in a comforting squeeze, which Spock accepted enough to remain pliant. They worked in silence for a few more minutes, straightening out the plastic needles of their tree, and doing their best to unsnarl a long line of lights.
“You know,” Jim said about five minutes later. He was crouched behind the backside of the tree and attempting to lasso the light string around to the other side, making his voice slightly muffled. “There’s a recipe for latkes in one of the cookbooks.”
“No, Jim,” Spock said.
“Come on,” Jim said. “They can’t be that hard.”
And because apparently Spock was incapable of denying Jim anything at this point, they found themselves back at the grocery store. The grocer, whose mustache had practically jumped in alarm when he first saw them, appeared to relax a little when they left less than twenty minutes later with a sack of potatoes, onions, and a large container of olive oil.
And of course, the grocer thought nothing of it when nearly two hours later the local fire department raced off, sirens blaring and lights flashing, in the same direction that the two visitors had also driven in. Because it was just very unlikely that the two events were at all connected. At all.
“Well, that was a disaster,” Jim said, his voice still a little hoarse from smoke.
“Indeed,” Spock coughed.
“Do me a favor,” Jim said, as they headed out of the still smoky kitchen to try and ignore life in the living room, “Please don’t tell my mother about the time we tried to deep fry potato pancakes.”
“Affirmative,” Spock said wearily.
They collapsed on the couch and Jim immediately slumped over Spock, a solid weight that warmed more than just the tops of his legs.
“What should we do about dinner?” Jim asked about a half an hour later.
“I have a dark chocolate orange here,” Jim suggested somewhat halfheartedly, picking it up off the coffee table in front of them.
Without an ounce of remorse, Spock snatched the chocolate orange from him, unwrapped it, and shoved as much as he could into his mouth. The day had been most trying.
“If the rest of the crew knew you did stuff like that, they’d lose all respect for you,” Jim said fondly, reaching up to muss up Spock’s hair. Then, “Hey, it’s not fair if you’re getting drunk and I’m not.”
Spock ignored him in favor of another piece of chocolate. With a vague huff, Jim removed himself from the couch and stalked off to the kitchen. Five minutes later, he returned with two mugs.
“What are those?” Spock asked, licking the remnants of the chocolate off his fingers. His cheeks were already starting to look flushed, his eyes a bit less focused. Unable to resist, Jim pressed a deep kiss to his mouth, which Spock immediately melted into, gripping Jim’s shirt with greedy fingers, before Jim managed to pull away and settle back onto the couch. He handed one of the mugs to Spock, who sniffed it.
“Hot apple cider,” he said. “Mine’s spiked.”
“Did you heat this over the stove?” Spock said with a deep twinge of alarm.
Jim shook his head, “I microwaved it,” he confessed, shamefaced. He took a sip, “Mmm,” he said, “Seasonal.”
They passed the rest of the evening quietly consuming more and more chocolate and cider and, when the need for substantial food became actually pressing, peanut butter sandwiches.
Christmas morning dawned early for Jim, with the combination gift of both a headache and a crick in his neck from sleeping slumped against Spock for the majority of the night.
“Shit!” he swore softly, mouth as dry as cotton balls. He leveled himself off the couch, and staggered into the bedroom, stopping only to take a leak and to drain a glass of water. Then, after several minutes of muffled pawing through his suitcase, he tiptoed as best as he was able back towards the main room.
With a surreptitious glance at a still sleeping Spock, Jim deposited a few packages below the base of the tree, and stuffed a few more into Spock’s stocking. Then he glared at the chronometer.
“3:30 in the fucking morning,” he muttered to himself. “Too fucking early.” He thought for a moment, pondering the effort it would likely take to get both him and Spock to a proper bed. “Fuck it,” he said sourly, and lowered himself onto the couch again, albeit now with his feet across Spock’s lap, and his head comfortably resting on a pillow. Within moments, he was asleep again.
Christmas dawned again some hours later, this time accompanied by a burning smell.
Jim’s eyes shot open, years of living on a starship having accustomed him to the fact that burning smells usually meant some sort of deadly emergency.
He was already halfway to the kitchen when he stopped short at the sight of Spock shuffling back into the main room, hair adorably askew.
“We shall not be having pancakes this morning after all,” Spock said, severe Vulcan facemask firmly in place.
At a loss, and a bit worried about what he would find if he were to venture into the kitchen at just this moment, Jim just nodded.
Spock’s shoulders caved inward the tiniest bit. He started to head back towards the kitchen, then paused and looked at Jim. The smallest of frowns creased the corners of his mouth. “Human dishes are most illogical,” he said, as if he were unable to contain himself.
Jim tilted his head. “Huh?”
Spock shook his head at Jim’s uncomprehending stare. “How else is one supposed to tell the difference between a ‘non-stick pan’ and a ‘regular pan’ if humans refuse to label the necessary implements?” he said haughtily.
“Um,” Jim said.
“Illogical!” Spock snapped, and marched back into the kitchen.
After cornflakes and a fruit salad that was really more just bananas, apples, and oranges, Kirk convinced Spock that really, the point of Christmas morning was to open gifts, fancy breakfasts be damned.
To his surprise, Jim’s stocking also contained packages that it had not the night before – packages the revealed themselves to be different flavors of liquor. Spock raised an eyebrow, but admitted nothing. He also would not tell Jim how much the old style wristwatch and the antique copy of Mark Twain’s biography had cost him – but Jim was rather close lipped about the seed packets of Vulcan plants and a collection of sheet music for the Vulcan lute inspired by Earth style opera, so that made them kind of even.
When the gift giving had ceased, and Jim had made them a lunch of slightly rubbery eggs and toast without too much incident, he persuaded Spock to pull out his lute and try to duet some Christmas carols with Jim’s guitar.
“Only if you do not sing,” Spock said, recalling, perhaps, the various times he had been treated to a drunken Jim’s dubious singing voice.
Of course, Jim ignored this small proviso and Spock, likely having expected such an outcome, grudgingly allowed it.
And the day passed thus for the majority of the afternoon.
Evening however, found the pair staring morosely at the kitchen and the collection of cookbooks.
“We could have peanut butter again,” Jim offered.
Spock wrinkled his nose.
There was more staring.
After a few moments, Spock spoke. “Jim,” he said, his tone oddly formal. “I have forgotten to mention a grave oversight regarding Christmas dinner. My apologies.”
“Oh?” Jim asked, thumbing through Easy Christmas Foods For The Cooking Impaired.
Spock nodded. “It was a tradition practiced by my mother and her family on Christmas night. She would occasionally mention it to me in her anecdotes about her life on Earth.”
“I thought you said your mom didn’t celebrate Christmas.”
“You are correct,” Spock said. “However, it has been a custom for hundreds of years for my mother’s family – and indeed, a large majority of the Jewish diaspora – to consume Chinese food on Christmas night. I ask that you help me to honor this custom.”
Jim chewed his bottom lip. “I’d love to,” he said honestly, laying a hand on Spock’s arm, “But I don’t know if our cooking skills are really up to—”
“That will not be a problem,” Spock interjected quickly. “It is imperative that such a meal take place at a Chinese restaurant.”
Jim blinked. Then a slow, understanding grin spread across his face. “Well if that’s the case,” he said lightly, innocently, “I’m sure there’s one in town. Customs must be honored, after all. We can have a full trappings Christmas dinner next year.”
“Indeed,” said Spock. And as he followed a reenergized Jim out the door, he did nothing to hide the hint of a smile in his eyes. Upon reaching the driveway, Jim slipped a surreptitious hand into Spock’s as they walked, stopping only long enough to indulge in a soft, sweet kiss.