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“I swear to God”’ Leonard McCoy said solemnly, “if I hear “The 12 Days of Christmas” one more time, I am short-circuiting the ship’s sound system.”

Jim Kirk just leaned back, brandy glass in hand, and laughed at his oldest friend. The two men were sitting together in McCoy’s office, taking a few minutes to relax after another busy day on the Enterprise. “You know, Bones,” he teased, “there’s a reason someone created that giant Grinch cut-out with your face on it and left it in Main Rec.”

“Oh, ‘someone,’ my ass,” McCoy grumped. “That little prank had your fingerprints all over it, captain sir.”

“Plausible deniability, Bones, that’s all I need.” Jim chuckled.

McCoy sighed. “I don’t know why I bother talking to you about Christmas. You’re like a six year-old getting his first ‘big boy’ bike from Santa. You completely ignore the lapses in crew discipline, the fact that everybody goes off their diets and most of them go off the wagon, the fact that everywhere I go, I’m either strangled by ropes of tinsel or ambushed by some amorous yeoman with mistletoe, the fact that people spend weeks buying, wrapping, and swapping crap they could buy for themselves if they really needed it…”

“Ah, ‘what is Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer,’ Bones?” Jim quoted dramatically from his favorite Christmas story, almost choking with laughter at the sight of McCoy’s face.

Bones scowled. “Great. Now I’m not just Grinch; I’m Scrooge.”

“If the Christmas stocking fits, Bones…”

McCoy shook his head, a tiny smile finally quirking the corner of his mouth. “I give up.”

“Bones, you know what a great crew we have. Even at Christmas, they do their jobs, and they do them well. We’re in friendly space, and they all deserve an opportunity to kick back just a bit.” He glanced at the time. “I’d best get moving. Remember, the crew party is tomorrow night.”

“I know, I know. I’ll have plenty of hangover remedies and antacids ready,” McCoy grumped. “I’ll even gift wrap them.”

“See? You can be jolly if you try.” Kirk left before his friend threw something at him. 

 

As Kirk walked through the corridors on his way to his quarters, he thought about the crew’s Christmas spirit. Like any starship, the Enterprise’s personnel, both human and otherwise, came from a wide variety of religious and cultural traditions. Some crew members had never even heard of Christmas until they joined Star Fleet, but nearly everyone seemed to enjoy the festivities. Kirk thought of another line from Dickens’ classic piece:

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round …as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time.

Yes, no matter what the crew’s background, that seemed to sum up Christmas on the Enterprise. It was a good time, a pleasant time for all.

 

Kirk stepped into his quarters, but he didn’t stay. He grabbed a small item off his desk and then walked into the shared bathroom between his and Spock’s rooms. Months ago, when they were “just friends,” Spock had given him permission to enter his quarters without knocking. However, as the two men had gradually grown closer, Kirk paradoxically felt it was more important than ever that he not violate Spock’s boundaries.

Kirk sighed. He and Spock had finally confessed that their friendship was something more, but they hadn’t progressed any further. Jim frankly wanted to progress a lot further, but again, he didn’t want to push Spock out of his comfort zone. The Vulcan was a very reserved and private individual, and the very fact that he had let down his emotional guards around Kirk should have been enough, but it wasn’t.

Bones is right; I am like a six year-old. I always want more. Kirk thought wryly. He knocked softly.

“Come in,” Spock’s voice called. Jim stepped through the door and into the Vulcan’s quarters, relaxing quite unconsciously as the warmth, the soft reddish light, the scent of Vulcan incense, and most of all, the sight of his favorite person in the world combined to put Kirk in a very good mood.

Spock was sitting cross-legged on the floor on his meditation mat, but he was not meditating. He was carefully using a tiny comb to groom a small, round, white, furry ball that was purring so loudly Jim could hear it from where he stood. It was D.B. (short for Dust Bunny), the sterile white tribble Spock had adopted and, in a shocking lapse of discipline for the perfect Vulcan, smuggled onto the ship. However, once Kirk had found out about the stowaway, discovered how much it meant to Spock, and been informed that white tribbles, unlike their lusty, quickly-breeding, multi-colored cousins, were sterile, he had gladly allowed the Vulcan to keep his pet. Since tribbles were still officially considered dangerous (due to the afore-mentioned breeding), D.B. was a well-kept secret—or would have been, except for the fact that the tribble was an escape artist par excellence. We should have named it Houdini, Kirk thought, looking at the happy fuzz ball. Of course, no one in the crew would ever “rat out” Spock or his pet, but there had been a bad few moments when Admiral Nogura, on board for an inspection, had caught a glimpse of a white blur in his bunk. Lucky for us the old bastard is near-sighted and D.B. is fast on his…uh, feet.

Spock looked up. “Jim,” he said with that particular warm inflection in his voice that only his captain ever heard. “Good evening.”

“Hi, Spock.” Kirk sank down on the floor next to his friend. “How’s our little truant tonight?”

Spock sighed. “I have tried to communicate empathically with D.B., attempting to explain that he must remain here in my quarters where he is safe. Unfortunately, he does not seem to ‘comprehend’ my meaning. I think…I think he is bored and perhaps lonely when I am not here, so he goes exploring.” Spock looked guilty. “I can assure you, I have tried every kind of pen or cage available, but he seems to have an uncanny ability to extract himself from any confinement.” The Vulcan hesitated for a moment. “I know that you would be subject to disciplinary measures if it were discovered that you allowed me to keep an officially prohibited animal.” Spock looked as unhappy as Jim could ever recall seeing him, but he went on. “Perhaps I should give D.B. to a zoological establishment.”

 Kirk shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Spock. D.B.’s been safe so far…” and he’ll continue to be. “Let me worry about my disciplinary risk. In the meantime…” Kirk really wanted to change the subject. “I brought our little friend a Christmas gift.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny pair of red and green antlers that he had persuaded Lt. Olson, a seamstress in the Quartermaster’s department, to craft from felt, complete with minute jingly bells. “Here.” He reached out and pick up D.B., slipping the antlers, with their soft elastic strap, over top of the small puffball. D.B.’s purring promptly got louder; he loved it when Jim played with him. Jim set the tribble back on the floor, shaking with laughter at the look on Spock’s face.

“See? No problem. At least for now, we can disguise him as one of Santa’s reindeer!”

 

The crew’s Christmas party had been a great success. Uhura had sung carols and folk songs; the Quartermaster had outdone himself with a spread of tasty treats, and even McCoy seemed to have a good time. Kirk left the Rec area just before 2300 hours; he and Spock had agreed to meet in the Jim’s cabin for a Christmas toast. He had just walked into his cabin and switched on the lights on the Christmas tree when Spock walked in from his cabin, carrying D.B., minus antlers.

“I am sorry, Jim,” he said. “I tried to keep them on, but every time he rolls anywhere, they fall off.”

“Yeah, I should have thought of that,” Kirk chuckled. “No problem, next year I’ll get him a little Christmas sweater to wear.” He motioned to the area near the tree, where Kirk had left a couple of cushions to use as seats. “Have a seat, Spock; what are you drinking, chocolate liqueur?”

“Yes, please,” the Vulcans said promptly, kneeling on one of the cushions and allowing D.B. to perch on his knee. Kirk dialed up the drink, along with a brandy for himself, and then carried both over to Spock, handing him his cup and settling onto the other cushion. For a moment, the two men simply looked at each other, sipping their drinks in silent contentment. Kirk noticed how the red and green lights on the tree reflected themselves in Spock’s thick, blue-black hair, giving the Vulcan’s face an almost otherworldly glow. Kirk felt that faint hollowness he often felt, and he had to stop himself from reaching out and gently stroking Spock’s hair. Stop it, Jim; he’s not a tribble. He shook himself mentally and set down his cup.

“I already gave D.B. his gift, but here’s yours,” he said. He reached under the tree and pulled out a flat package, which he handed to Spock.

“Thank you, Jim. This really is not necessary…”

“I know, but indulge my human customs, as you always do,” Jim told him with a smile. “Go ahead; open it.”

Spock pulled off the wrappings to reveal a slim folder. He opened it and began to read the document inside. He stopped abruptly and looked over at Kirk, delighted surprise plainly written on his features.

“Jim?”

Kirk nodded, bursting with pride. “That’s right. It was my idea, but Bones and X’garra in Life Sciences have been filing all the paperwork. Thanks to them, there is a new sub-classification of tribble, one that covers our little friend here.” He reached over and stroked D.B. with one finger, eliciting a drowsy purr.

Spock looked more closely at the document. “Tribblius albus virgo.” The corners of his mouth twitched. “White virgin tribble?”

“Yep, the new official designation for D.B. and his chaste little friends,” Jim said with a grin. “The fast-breeding kind are now called tribblius prolificus, and for obvious reasons, they’re still on the ‘dangerous critters’ list. But D.B. is now completely legit, an official member of the ship’s zoological complement.” His grin got even wider. “And, since white virgin tribbles are no longer contraband…” he got up and padded over to his closet. Opening the door, he reached up to the top shelf and pulled down a square container covered with a cloth. He brought it back to where Spock and D.B, were sitting. With a flourish, he removed the cover.

“Merry Christmas, Spock—and you too, D.B.,” he added.

Inside the wire box was another white tribble. Jim opened the side of the container and gently lifted the ball of fluff out onto the floor. It sat quietly for a moment, and then D.B., trilling, rolled off Spock’s knee, onto the floor, and straight to the new tribble, who was also trilling excitedly. The two met, bumped ‘noses’ for a moment, and then rolled back to Spock. D.B. bumped Spock’s leg and purred. Jim would have sworn that D.B. was explaining to the new tribble, “Here’s our protector. He’s wonderful.” The second tribble quickly and eagerly snuggled up against Spock, who reached down and gently lifted both tribbles onto his lap. His head bent, he softly stroked both for a moment. Then he looked up at Jim, his eyes bright.

“I thought D.B. might get in less trouble if he had a friend,” Jim explained. He shrugged. “Or maybe he’ll get in more trouble. But since he’s no longer just our little secret, another ball of fluff won’t be any problem, even if they’re both swimming in the Rec pool.” That little episode had been D.B.’s latest adventure. Good thing tribbles can swim.

“Jim,” Spock said softly, “thank you. I do not know how to thank you properly.”

“Don’t thank me; thank Cyrano Jones. I contacted him on Space Station K7, and he was…persuaded, in return for a slightly reduced sentence, to send me out another white tribble.”

“Jim,” Spock said again, “I am very grateful.” He glanced away shyly. “I have something for you as well, although it cannot compare with this gift.”

“Let me be the judge of that.” Kirk smiled, reaching out and taking the small package that Spock handed him. He opened it; it was some type of recording.

“Hang on,” Kirk said. He got to his feet and walked over to his desk, sliding the tape into its slot and activating the viewer. He caught his breath with delight at the sight that met his eyes. It was Spock, curled up in Jim’s own faded blue armchair. He was reading from one of Jim’s favorite books. Jim closed his eyes and listened as the Vulcan’s deep, warm voice came from the speakers:

 

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 

Jim opened his eyes to find Spock standing at his shoulder. He smiled at the Vulcan, blinking back the sudden moisture in his eyes.

“Spock, it’s beautiful,” he said softly. “Thank you.”

“I recorded several of your favorite pieces,” Spock replied quietly. He looked down for a moment and then back at Kirk. “Jim…I cannot always articulate what I wish to say to you, so I thought perhaps this would be the best way for me to do so.”

Kirk placed one hand on Spock’s shoulder and gently squeezed. “It’s the perfect way to do so,” he assured him.

“Jim, I…I have another gift for you, if you will accept it.” Ever so slowly, Spock, put his hands on Kirk’s shoulders and turned him so the two men were face to face. For a long moment, they simply looked into each other’s eyes, and then Spock leaned forward. Their lips met as Spock pulled Jim closer to him, wrapping his arms around the human as Jim embraced him in turn. For long moments they kissed softly, each learning the textures of the other’s mouth, each drinking in the exquisite sensations that were beginning to build in them. Finally, Spock pulled back, his eyes meeting Jim’s, the happiness in each reflecting in the gaze of the other.

“Jim,” he asked, very softly, “would you like to…unwrap your Christmas gift?”

Kirk wondered if it was possible to die from pure joy. He hugged Spock tightly, burying his face in his love’s warm neck.

“There’s nothing I would like more,” he whispered. He stepped back and took Spock’s hands, leading him around the divider to where his bunk awaited them. Only two very happy tribbles saw them, and the tribbles weren’t about to tell.

 

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