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Author's Chapter Notes:

This is a little longer than usual to make up for the last couple chapters being so short, so don’t get used to this.

-

 

Spock knew he’d put off his trip for too long.  The mall he had chosen was not too terribly full, given the amount of last minute shopping going on.  He had to admit, he was nervous again.  He didn’t want to seem overly presumptuous by bringing gifts, not only to Jim but to his brother and sister-in-law as well.  But he was going through with it.

 

He entered the store in the shopping mall and looked around.  It wasn’t overly crowded.  It was three days until Christmas Eve, and most people were looking at items that were probably considered luxuries instead of necessities.  For Vulcans, any gifts given were logical; objects that could serve a purpose.  That was what he was trying to do here.

 

The store he’d entered contained shelves and racks filled with clothing, designed in range from humans beginning to show their pregnancy to a child’s toddler years.  He focused on the ones intended for baby’s first few months, knowing that human children grew quite rapidly compared to Vulcans.  He found a selection of articles of clothing known as ‘onesies’ and chose three of them, a blue, a yellow, and a green, colors that were typically chosen for baby boys or for either sex.  He hesitated for a moment, before also selecting a stuffed animal colored with light green, blue, pink and orange all over with loose limbs hanging beneath it.  An octopus, he believed.

 

He purchased the items and left the store.  He knew that it was a human tradition on most of Earth for parents to receive gifts to help them care for their child during a party called a ‘baby shower’.  He didn’t know if his contribution would be necessary, or even welcome, but if what his mother always said, that it was the thought that counted, applied to other humans, the clothes would be appreciated.  Now he had to focus on the task of finding a gift for Jim.

 

Jim’s interests might help him determine what would make a good gift for him.  He enjoyed chess, history, and old literature, to name a few things.  Perhaps an antique store?  They were a little difficult to find, but they were out there.  First, though, he found a place in the mall that boxed and wrapped up the clothes and the toy together for him.  He placed the package safely in his bag, found a public computer terminal, and pulled up a digital address book in order to search for an antique store.

 

He finally found the address of one where he might find something Jim would like.  Upon entering the building, he immediately began looking around, assessing the condition of the objects being sold.  The furniture seemed relatively unmarked and sturdy.  There were many little ‘knickknacks’ set on top of said furniture and various shelves, and they too seemed to be in good condition.  What quickly drew his eye though, was a series of shelved cases lined against the wall.  They were crammed full of old fashioned paper books both paperback and hardback.

 

He made his way over to them quickly.  He looked at the long rows of volumes and began looking for familiar titles.  He recalled some of the ones that Jim had mentioned to him, but he didn’t see any with those ones.  He also realized that Jim said he already had some of the titles he’d mentioned, so it was possible Spock might mistakenly give him one he already had.

 

As he continued to study the books, he tried to think about Jim’s interests in literature.  He’d shown an interest in history, as well as both fiction and nonfiction.  It seemed possible, from his mention of the Star Wars film saga, that Jim might have an interest in science fiction as well.  Right as he was thinking this, his eyes lit on a title:  The War of the Worlds.  He did not recognize the title; however he did recognize the name of the author:  H.G. Wells.  He had come across the name when researching some of the titles Jim had mentioned learning about from a children’s educational program.  He was the author of The Time Machine, a surprisingly well thought out story.  While it was impossible to call it accurate due to the lack of real proven scientific fact, it was definitely interesting.

 

Intrigued, he pulled the book off the shelf.  Studying the slightly battered, tan colored hard cover and initial pages, he realized it was a first edition, very well kept and reasonably priced.  He skimmed through the contents of the story, surprised by the reality of it; a technologically superior race almost defeating humanity, only to be beaten back by the most natural of defenses a planet could offer, germs and bacteria that they, unlike humans, were not immune to.  While in reality, an invading army might have checked into and been aware of such a thing first, it was still an impressive story for its time.  The invasion itself was incredibly well thought out.

 

There was one line near the beginning that almost troubled Spock.  ‘Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded our planet with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.’  He was clearly describing superior intelligence and ruthless control.  Cool and unsympathetic.  The words could have almost described the Vulcan race.  It would have been a perfect match if Vulcans were still the conquerors they had been before Surak’s Reformation.  Had it not been for that, their eventual discovery of space travel might have led them to battle with and enslave worlds instead of simply studying them and sometimes making contact.  Earth was rich in certain natural resources compared to Vulcan, so it would not have been a surprise if they were attacked for it by a race in need of said resources that was willing to take them by force.

 

He decided to purchase the book.  He didn’t know how serious a collector Jim was, but a first edition of a paper book in such good condition for such a low price was probably a rarity.  Spock knew that on Vulcan, many important old paper books were kept hidden away or kept on display in museums, only used when their words needed to be copied and converted to a digital source.  And even though it might be considered illogical to hold onto something after its use was complete, books were kept safe.  They were a part of the history and culture of the world, and that was something Vulcans had no shame of revering. 

 

Spock had his purchase wrapped in the store.  He was still interested in the story and wanted to read it more slowly and completely, but he could download it to his padd for that.  He didn’t want to risk damaging the book before he had a chance to give it to Jim.  He tucked it safely into his bag and quickly boarded a shuttle that would take him back to the Academy.

 

------

 

On Christmas Eve, Spock nervously tried to meditate in his quarters.  He had a few hours left before he had to depart for the Kirk home.  He opened his eyes yet again to look at the packages sitting on a chair in his room.  He’d labeled them quite simply.  One of them said ‘Sam and Aurelan Kirk.’  The other simply read ‘Jim.’ His gaze was pulled away from them by the sound of his console ringing.  He realized he’d forgotten all about the fact that his mother had planned to call him today.

 

He stood up and moved to sit in his chair.  He opened the channel and saw his mother’s gently smiling face before him.

 

“Greetings, Mother.”  He said quietly.

 

“Hello Spock.”  She replied.  “Merry Christmas.”  He accepted her greeting with a nod.

 

“I trust you and Father are both well?”  She inclined her head.

 

“We’re both fine.”  She looked at him curiously.  “How are you doing?  I imagine it’s very cold there from your point of view.”

 

Spock told her of the changes in the season.  He also had to assure her that he was dressing warmly enough when he went outside, and that he was eating enough and not burying himself alive in his schoolwork.

 

“What about your friend, Jim?”  She asked later on.

 

“Jim invited me to have dinner with his family three weeks ago.  He has also invited me to dinner tonight and tomorrow night.”  Amanda blinked at him, clearly surprised.

 

“He invited you to dinner on Christmas?”

 

“Yes.”  Replied Spock, uncertain as to why she was so surprised.

 

“Spock, even inviting someone you think of as just a friend to your house on Christmas can be a pretty big deal for humans.  It means that he already considers you a good friend, or at least likes you enough to not want you to be alone on the holiday.”  Spock nodded.

 

“I had considered as much.  However I cannot be too presumptuous.  I may already be presuming too much by bringing gifts with me.”  Amanda looked surprised again.

 

“You’re bringing them gifts?”

 

“Yes.”  Said Spock.  “I purchased some items that Mr. and Mrs. Kirk can use when their son is born, and I found a book that I believe Jim will enjoy.  He is quite fond of literature and printed paper books.”  Amanda nodded.

 

“Alright, the first things sound like good gifts for people you don’t know very well yet.  I’m sure they’ll be appreciated.  As for Jim, that sounds like something that’s just the right amount of personal; not too little and not too much.  I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.”  She smiled at him again.  “I really hope this works out well for you, sweetheart.”  Spock felt some of the tension go out of him at his mother’s use of the term.

 

“I appreciate your well-wishes.”  He said quietly.  “Please pass my regards on to Father.”

 

“I will.”  She promised.  “Now, go to your friend’s house and have a good time.”

 

“Yes, Mother.”  He replied, ever the obedient son.  Well, mostly.  With a gesture of farewell, she closed the link, Spock doing the same.  He glanced at the time on the computer console and realized he should be getting ready to depart.  Fixing his clothing and gathering his packages, he left to catch the shuttle to the Kirk home.

 

------

 

He was welcomed into the building the same way as last time.  He was buzzed up and greeted at the door by Jim.

 

“Hey!”  He said with a big grin.  He almost seemed to be vibrating with excitement.  “Come on in.”  Spock followed him inside and looked around again.  The apartment was unchanged from the last time he came over, with one exception.  There was a large artificial evergreen tree in the corner of the living room area.  It was covered with small colorful lights, golden beads, and ornaments of various shapes, sizes, and colors.  Fastened to the top was a multi-colored star, glowing brightly in the somewhat dim lighting of the room.  Under the tree were a four wrapped parcels, varying in size, and one large brightly colored bag with tissue paper hiding whatever was inside.  Something about the whole picture was rather warm and captivating.  He looked around the room again.

 

“Where are Sam and Aurelan?”

 

“They’re in their room.”  Replied Jim.  “They got home later than they meant to, so they didn’t bother changing before getting dinner cooked.  They’re just finishing getting ready now.  Do you want to sit down?”

 

“Yes, please.”  Replied Spock.  They sat at the table, close to the tree.  Spock started to put his bag down and remembered the packages.

 

“These are for you and your family.”  He said, pulling them out and handing them to Jim.  Jim took them, surprised.

 

“Wow, thanks.  You didn’t have to do that.”

 

“It is only logical to comply with someone’s traditions when you are a guest in their home.”  Replied Spock.  Jim smiled.

 

“Okay then.  Let me just put these under the tree.”  Jim started to get up, and Spock noticed that he seemed to be having a little trouble standing, put off balance by his large midsection.

 

“Allow me.”  He said quickly, taking the packages from Jim before he could protest and placing them under the tree with the others.  As he was doing that, the door to the master bedroom opened and Sam and Aurelan walked out.  Aurelan was fastening a necklace and Sam was smoothing his hair down into place.

 

“Hold on a second honey.”  She said, reaching up and brushing a few strands out of his face.  He simply stood there and let her.  Spock had to fight the urge to look away.  He was not being inappropriate by watching them together; they were not doing anything that would have been considered private by human standards.  However, it seemed Spock’s Vulcan upbringing made him uncomfortable watching such an innocently intimate act.

 

That’s exactly what it seemed to be.  While the act itself was simple and not particularly remarkable, the fact that they behaved that way together spoke of a trusting, comfortable existence together.  Spock wondered if he and Jim might have a relationship like that someday.  It looked…nice.

 

Both of their gazed seemed to follow him to the packages he’d just placed under the tree.

 

“Oh, Spock,” said Aurelan softly, “you didn’t have to go to any trouble.”

 

“It was no trouble, I assure you.”  He replied.  She smiled warmly.

 

“Alright then, we’ll open them tomorrow with the others.”  Sam clapped his hands together.

 

“Well, now that we’re all here, let’s eat!”

 

This dinner was as pleasant as the last one.  Spock asked and answered many questions, some more personal than last time.  Rather than simply discussing experiments, they all asked questions about things in the past.  They all discussed their past education and goals for the future.  Jim, he learned, was a high ranking online chess player, something he hadn’t mentioned before.  Sam and Aurelan did indeed hope to go off-world someday, though it would have to wait until their son was old enough, school age at least.  Jim seemed to have a contemplative look on his face when they said that, but he made no comment.

 

Too soon for Spock’s liking, dinner was over.  He rose from his seat feeling something very much like reluctance.  The talk around the table reminded him somewhat of his childhood.  His parents always exchanged details of their day.  He wondered if that was common with Vulcan families, or if it was one of several human rituals that Sarek indulged Amanda in.  He’d often contributed very little to the discussions, mostly due to his classmate’s treatment of him.  He hadn’t wanted his mother to know they’d made him feel sad.  And he hadn’t wanted his father to know they’d made him feel.

 

“You’ll be back tomorrow, right?”  Asked Jim expectantly as he saw Spock to the door.  He nodded.

 

“Of course.  Will it be acceptable for me to return at the same hour?”

 

“Sure.”  Said Jim brightly.  “Goodnight Spock, and Merry Christmas.”  Spock felt his inner being warmed by the sincerity in Jim’s words.

 

“Merry Christmas Jim.”  He forced himself to turn away and begin walking down the hall, and heard the sound of the door shutting behind him.

 

------

 

Spock spent most of Christmas Day eagerly awaiting his chance to return to the Kirk home.  He tried to meditate to keep himself calm, but he found he couldn’t focus over the excitement.  He wondered if part of it was an effect of being around humans who were so happy about it being Christmas, but he knew truthfully that he would always be a little excited by the chance to see Jim.

 

Another thing he tried to do to pass the time was read.  He’d purchased a digital copy of The War of the Worlds and downloaded it to his padd.  He wanted to be able to discuss it with Jim if he felt so inclined.

 

Once again, he’d admired the author’s realism for the fictitious invasion.  The aliens were quite…well, alien.  Their physical forms were physically inferior to that of humans, but they were more advanced intellectually. Their vehicles were incredibly unique, bearing no resemblance to anything on Earth at the time.  Wells had included some very realistic elements to his story as well, describing deaths and corpses quite bluntly, almost heartbreakingly so, not shying away from details many might consider to gruesome.  The only lack of imagination Spock could find with the story was the fact that the invading aliens were Martians.  Aside from knowing that it had been proven over a century ago that there was never any life on Mars, and the term ‘Martians’ had been used many times in fiction.  Though, he allowed, that had not been the case when the book was written.

 

All in all, it was a rather compelling story.  Spock managed to keep himself distracted with it long enough so that he was not simply waiting for the hours to go by.  Finally, it was time to go back to the Kirk home.

 

He arrived at the building just a little early, anticipation having quickened his steps from the shuttle drop-off.  Once again, he was buzzed inside.

 

“Hey!”  Said Jim with a big smile, standing in the open door already as he exited the lift.  “Come in!”  Spock stepped inside, a little surprised.

 

“I was under the impression I was early.  How did you know I would be here?”  Jim grinned as he lowered himself into a chair at the table, a flush rising on his face.  Excitement, perhaps?

 

“I was looking out the window and I saw you step off the shuttle.”  Spock glanced at the window and realized that Jim would indeed be able to see the approaching shuttle from there.  His attention was brought back to Jim when he spoke again.  “Do you want to just stick your bag in my room?”  He asked.  Spock nodded.

 

“Of course.”  He noticed that Jim made no attempt to get up from his seat and realized that he had permission to go inside by himself, something that excited him a little more than it probably should have.  The room itself was unchanged.  He set his bag on the bed next to Jim’s and went back into the kitchen/living room.  He turned his attention to the Christmas tree.  All the gifts under the tree had been left untouched.  He felt a wave of nervousness again, wondering how his gifts would be received.  They’d seemed glad to accept them, but how would they react knowing what they were?  Just then, Sam and Aurelan stepped out of their room.

 

“Spock.”  Said Sam, looking surprised.  “You’re early.  I should have known; Vulcan’s do tend to be punctual.”

 

“Indeed.”  Replied Spock, inclining his head.

 

“Well,” said Aurelan, “Jim’s really impatient to get to the gifts, so let’s eat.”  Jim gave her a teasing grin.

 

“You know you want to get to them just as bad.”  He turned to Spock, still grinning.  “I saw her shaking one of the boxes, trying to figure out what was inside.”  Spock felt a spike of amusement.

 

“Illogical.”  That was all he could think of to stay.  Jim, Sam, and Aurelan just laughed, and everybody settled down to start eating.

 

Once dinner was finished, Sam and Aurelan stood up immediately.  Jim took a little more time to rise, and Spock could not bring himself to move over to the tree until he’d risen.  He looked over to the tree and saw that Sam and Aurelan were seated on the floor by it.  Realizing that Jim would have difficulty going down and getting up, Spock quickly dragged one of the chairs over to the tree and gestured to it.

 

“Thanks.”  Jim said with a grateful smile.  Spock, not entirely comfortable with sitting on the floor, perched himself on the couch a meter away from the tree.  It also set him apart from them, since he was not part of the family.  The gifts were quickly distributed.  Jim received something from his brother and sister in law, they received something from him, and they exchanged gifts with each other.

 

Aurelan opened the smallest box quickly and nearly squealed with delight.  Inside was a pair of shining silver earrings with a pair of rubies sparkling from them.

 

“My birthstone.”  She explained to Spock, seeing his curiosity.  “My birthday was last week, but they couldn’t get here in time.”  Sam opened his gift from Aurelan, which turned out to be a very nice looking pair of cufflinks with his birthstone, sapphire, which he thanked her for sincerely.  Even more sincere was the thanks they gave Jim when they opened his gift.  There were actually separate gifts for them.  Aurelan let out another excited squeal when she opened a box with a necklace with what appeared to be a small humanoid figure on it.  The space of the head was filled with a small round diamond and the body space had a slightly larger oval shaped one.  Spock realized it was a mother’s necklace, for their child due in April.

 

Sam’s gift was quite similar.  He received a tiepin with a small diamond on it.  It could have passed for something else, but his family would know its meaning.  Both of the gifts had space available on them for their son’s name to be engraved after they chose it.  From his brother and sister-in-law, Jim received a new, state-or-the-art padd with all the latest ‘bells and whistles’ as a human might say.  He seemed quite excited to receive it.

 

After watching them open their gifts to each other and seeing their reactions, Spock was a little nervous about seeing them open his.  He couldn’t help but move a little closer as Aurelan reached for the larger of the two and started to open it.

 

“Oh!”  She breathed, looking at the clothes and the toy with it.  “Thank you so much Spock!  You don’t know what this means to us.”  Sam nodded in agreement.

 

“We’re very grateful, for this, and for the fact that you’re looking out for Jimmy.”  Spock just nodded in response, a little too embarrassed to speak.  To try to cover it up, he handed Jim his gift.  He wasn’t sure how it would compare to the new device, but hopefully the gesture would mean something.  Jim’s eyes widened as the paper fell away to reveal the first edition copy of The War of the Worlds.

 

“Oh my God!”  He exclaimed, looking through the pages.  “Where did you find this?  It must have cost you a lot.”  Spock shook his head.

 

“I came across it in a small, local antique shop.  It was priced rather low for its rarity and condition.”  He paused.  “I recognized the author as one who had written a story you mentioned before, so I thought it a logical choice.”

 

“It’s perfect!”  Said Jim with a big grin.  “I’ve seen a bunch of the different movies they made about this, but I’ve never really read the book.  I’ve already got a first edition copy of The Time Machine, so this is fantastic!”  His smile became quite warm as he looked back at Spock.  “Thank you.”  Spock wondered if he could feel any warmer inside than he did right now.

 

“You are welcome.”  He replied.  Jim looked down at his book again before suddenly snapping his head up.

 

“Oh, before I forget…”  He gestured toward the large bag under the tree.  Sam quickly handed it to Jim, who held it out to Spock.  “This one’s for you.”  Spock took it, startled.

 

“You did not need to get me a gift.”  He said, a little helplessly.

 

“You didn’t have to get us anything either.”  Reminded Aurelan.  “Open it.”  Spock pushed aside the tissue paper and saw fabric of some kind.

 

“I hope they fit okay.”  Said Jim as he was pulling the paper out.  “Aury guessed the size, she has a pretty good eye for that sort of thing.”  Spock was taken aback.  Folded neatly inside the bag were five sweaters.  They were all solid colors:  Plain black, charcoal grey, maroon red, navy blue, and myrtle green.  They appeared to be very good quality.  He looked around at them all, startled.

 

“I hope that’s okay.”  Said Jim a little hastily.  “I know it’s a lot chillier here than what you’re used to, especially this time of year, so this seemed like a good, logical idea.”

 

“Yes, it is.”  Murmured Spock, rubbing the sleeve of one of the sweaters.  The wool was very soft against his skin.  “Thank you.”  Jim looked incredibly relieved.  Sam and Aurelan looked rather amused.

 

They all stayed together and made small talk for a time, Jim contributing distractedly while he focused on his book.  However, it got late, and Spock said that he needed to return to his campus quarters.  To his surprise, Jim stood up slowly from his chair.

 

“Let’s get your bag out of my room.”  He led the way to the door and, to Spock’s surprise, shut it behind them.  He reached into his own bag and pulled out another package.  “Here.”  He said, handing it to Spock.  “You can open it when you get back to your room.  You can do it in private and not worry about how to react in front of us.  The receipt is in there, in case you don’t want or need it, or anything.”  He said this all very quickly, and Spock realized Sam and Aurelan didn’t know about this additional gift.  He quickly slipped it into his own bag and nodded.  They walked out to the front door together and Jim stopped just outside it.  Spock turned to him once more.

 

“Thank you, Jim.”  He said softly.  Jim smiled at him brightly.

 

“You’re welcome.  Merry Christmas, Spock.”  Spock nodded and turned to leave.

 

Later on, in the privacy of his room, he pulled the package out and opened it up.  When he saw what was inside, he felt warm enough to do without the warmest sweater on a snowy day.

 

It was a small, two-dimensional, wooden chess set.

 

------

 

Spock knew he wouldn’t see any of the Kirk family again until the New Year’s Eve party that Jim had mentioned to him.  He had resolved to go.  Most of the people he knew at the Academy were gone for the break, so there was little else to do but work and meditate.  Doctor M’Benga was gone, as was Nyota Uhura, who he’d given the odd lesson to whenever they both had free time.  Even Gaila, the Orion cadet seemed to have found somewhere else to be, though she might be back by now.  A few cadets had planned to return to celebrate the New Year together.

 

Finally, New Year’s Eve rolled around.  Spock debated for a time before selecting the navy blue sweater.  It fit him perfectly.  Aurelan Kirk was indeed an excellent judge of size.

 

He arrived at the hall that was typically reserved for diplomatic functions to see that several people had already arrived.  He saw Captain Christopher Pike, who’d been very considerate about helping him adjust to living on Earth.  Standing with him was his First Officer, Number One.  Standing close to them was none other than Ben Finney, the cadet who’d been camping with Gary Mitchell when Spock first met Jim.  Looking over to the other side of the room, he saw Jim with Sam and Aurelan.  Jim caught sight of him, grinned, and waved him over.

 

“You made it!”  He said happily as Spock reached him.  By then, Sam and Aurelan had gone off to speak to someone, a colleague by the looks of it.  Jim looked at the sweater he was wearing.  “So they fit, that’s good to see.”

 

“Indeed they do.”  Replied Spock.  “They are quite comfortable as well.”

 

“Good.”  Said Jim.  He hesitated briefly.  “How did you feel about the chess set?  It’s just a little one you can take with you when you go somewhere.  I know that a padd is probably a better choice when traveling, but-”

 

“Jim.”  Interrupted Spock.  “I greatly appreciate the gift.  I did not have a set of my own, and I look forward to using it in the future.”

 

“Good.”  Said Jim, looking relieved.  “That’s really good.”  He looked like he was about to say something else, but something behind Spock caught his eye.  Spock turned around to see that Ben Finney and his female companion had drawn near.

 

“Hey Jim.”  He said, looking a little uncomfortable.  He gave a nod to Spock as well.  “Spock.”  Spock nodded in return.

 

“Mr. Finney.”  Jim gave him an amiable smile.

 

“Hey Ben.”  He glanced downward for a moment.  “I see you popped the question.”  Spock looked downward in confusion, trying to see what Jim was looking at.  On the young woman’s left hand sparkled a diamond engagement ring.  He realized she was Finney’s fiancé.

 

“Yeah, I did.”  He replied, his tension seeming to ease.  Looking back at Spock, he added for his benefit, “This is Liz Sterns.”

 

“Hello.”  Said Cadet Sterns, with a friendly smile.  Finney turned back to Jim.

 

“Look, Jim, I heard about what Mitchell said to you, last week and back in July.  I just wanted to say, I think he was wrong.  A lot of people do, and he’s not making any friends for himself by saying things like that.”

 

“We both think what you’re doing is just wonderful, Jamie.”  Added Liz.  Jim raised a hand.

 

“Thanks for that, but please don’t ever call me Jamie.  Jim, James, or even Jimmy works for me, but never Jamie.”  Liz smiled at him.

 

“That’s too bad.  I really love that name.”  She glanced over her shoulder at the refreshment table.  “I’m going to go get a drink.” She said as a way of excusing herself.

 

“I’ll join you in a minute.”  Promised Finney.  As she left, he turned back to them.  “You know,” he said to Spock, “you should consider going on the trip they have coming up.  Pike’s probably going to ask you sometime tonight.”

 

“Trip?”  Asked Spock, confused.  Finney nodded.

 

“Yeah, there’s going to be a kind of field trip for advanced cadets.  It’s just a simple thing really; it’s to the Axanar planet to meet and transport their delegates back here for negotiations.  It’ll really look good as a reference.  I got an offer, but I’m not going because, well…” he trailed off for a moment, looking at Jim’s rounded belly.  “Liz and I have been thinking about getting married sooner rather than later.  We both want to have kids, you see, and seeing what George and Aurelan have been going through, we both agreed that it might be for the best if we prioritize that.  We’re both thinking of applying for teaching positions in tactics and science after we graduate, instead of shipping right out.”  He looked back at Spock.  “Seriously, you should consider it.”  With a farewell wave, he moved off to join his fiancé.  Jim looked at Spock.

 

“Wow, that sounds like a pretty big deal.  You must be doing well if they’re going to offer you something like that.  Do you think you’ll do it?”

 

“I do not believe I can make such a decision so soon.  I do not even know if I am invited on this trip.”

 

“Oh come on.”  Said Jim.  “You’re like, the smartest person here.  They have to invite you.”  Spock couldn’t help but feel a small flash of pleasure as Jim referred to him as the smartest person there.  In old times, a Vulcan attracted his mate by proving that he was better than the others, though it was usually at skills like hunting or fighting.  Still, it was nice to hear.

 

As though he knew what they’d been talking about, Christopher Pike himself showed up at Spock’s side.

 

“Spock, nice to see you here.”  He nodded a greeting in Jim’s direction.  “Jim.”

 

“Hey, Pike.”  Replied Jim, his smile suddenly looking a little tight.  Pike turned his complete attention to Spock.

 

“I suppose Finney told you about the peace mission to the Axanar homeworld?”  At Spock’s nod, he continued.  “Spock, I think this would be a good opportunity for you.  You’ve been on Earth for about a year now, and you’ve progressed incredibly well.  This kind of advancement so early in your academic career could prove to be a real asset later on.  You’re doing an experiment with the power source they volunteered, so if anything, you might find it interesting to speak with some of them.  It will also be a good way for you to see just how you cope with even light duties on a starship.  You may never realize your full potential,” he glanced at Jim as he spoke, “if you let chances like this pass you by.”  He glanced back at Spock.  “Well, I hope you’ll at least think about it.  “We’ll be departing next week, and they trip there and back will be about eight weeks long.  I’ll just get back to Majel now.”  Spock exchanged a confused glance with Jim.

 

“Majel?”  He asked.

 

“My first officer.”  Pike explained.  “Please think about what I said.”  With that, he left.  Jim still looked puzzled.

 

Majel?  What kind of name is that?”

 

“I do not know.”  Replied Spock.  “I have never heard it before.”  Jim shrugged.

 

“So, are you going to think about it?”

 

“I am not certain.”  Admitted Spock.  “It seems to have merit, and I do have a lull in my studies at this point.”  He hesitated.  “It almost seemed as if he was speaking to you at one point, when he mentioned potential.”  Jim frowned.

 

“Yeah, he wants me to join Starfleet. It’s not gonna happen.”  Spock was puzzled.

 

“Why not?  If you possess the intelligence and drive for it, why not join?”  Jim shrugged.

 

“I don’t know.  My dad was in Starfleet, and it got him killed.  It messed up my mom for a long time, and that wasn’t exactly fun for me and Sam growing up.  Plus,” he added with a small smile, “I don’t exactly respond well to being told what to do.”  He looked at Spock seriously.  “You really should think about going though.  With that experiment of yours, and how fast you’re getting through your classes, I bet it’d be good for you.”

 

“You truly believe so?”

 

“Yeah.”  Said Jim, looking completely serious now.  “It’ll be good for your career, and you’ll probably learn a lot.”  Spock nodded slowly.

 

“I will consider it then.”

 

“Good.”  Said Jim, looking satisfied.  Suddenly, he frowned, one hand grasping at his stomach.

 

“Is everything alright?”  Asked Spock, concerned.

 

“Yeah.”  Said Jim with a grimace.  “I think he just kicked me in my bladder.  I’ll be back; I just have to go to the bathroom.”  With that, he headed off.  As Spock stood there, waiting for him to come back, yet another voice spoke up behind him.

 

“Well, what do you know.  A Vulcan at a party.”  He turned to see Doctor McCoy standing behind him.  “Now I’ve seen it all.”

 

“Doctor McCoy.”  Said Spock neutrally.  He wasn’t going to let this man irritate him right now.

 

“Where’s Jim?”  Asked McCoy.  “I promised him we’d talk when I got back from Georgia.  I went down to visit my daughter for Christmas.”  He added in explanation.

 

“I see.”  Replied Spock, not wanting his jealously to show.  This man was a doctor and a human.  He was permitted to speak to Jim and touch him with no suspicions or cultural restrictions.  It was difficult to keep in mind that there was no romantic interest between him and Jim.  McCoy seemed to sense his unease, because his next words were a reassurance.

 

“Don’t worry, it can wait.  He’s still got the weekly appointments.”  Seeing the surprise on Spock’s face he added.  “Oh come on, even a blind man could see you’re totally jealous over anyone else who comes near Jim, Vulcan or not.”  Spock didn’t bother to deny it.  Instead, he asked,

 

“You are not concerned that I as a Vulcan am not a suitable companion for him?”  McCoy rolled his eyes.

 

“Jim’s a grown man; he can decide what he wants for himself.  Besides,” he softened a bit, “you obviously care about his health, and the baby’s, and you haven’t done anything to jeopardize either one, so I’m pretty sure that should count in your favor.”  He glanced across the room at something.  “I’m gonna get back to my date now.  Tell Jim I’ll see him at his next appointment.”  Without waiting for a reply, he turned and strode off.  Spock heard the sound of someone approaching and turned to see Jim, back from the restroom.

 

“Was that Bones?”  Without waiting for an answer, he looked after McCoy’s retreating form.  “Oh hey, it looks like he’s with Gaila.  I’m glad she finally went for it.”  Spock followed Jim’s gaze and, as he said, it appeared that McCoy’s date was Gaila the Orion.  “I heard she was back; she spent Christmas with her foster moms.”  Spock looked at him, confused.

 

“Foster moms?”

 

“Yeah, she said she was only sixteen when she came to Earth, and they put her in foster care with these two ladies.  I think they were nervous about putting her in a family with a man in it, what with her being an Orion and all.  Even with hormone suppressants, they tend to be tempting, and men shouldn’t always be trusted around them.  Anyway, she loves them both, and still keeps in touch with them and visits sometimes.  Did Bones say anything?”

 

Just that he will speak to you at your next appointment.”  Spock replied honestly.  Knowing that the two people he’d seen as serious possible threats to a relationship with Jim were occupied with each other made it feel like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.

 

For the next few hours, they just talked about various subjects.  He spoke with Sam and Aurelan, thanking them once more for the sweaters.  As it drew closer to midnight, people began to gather around a large screen at one end of the hall.  There appeared to be a large ball that was going to be dropped, and a countdown.  As it came down to the final ten seconds, the entire crowd chanted with it.

 

Five, four, three, two, one, Happy New Year!”  As Spock looked on many couples, including Pike and his first officer, McCoy and Gaila, and Sam and Aurelan all kissed each other.  He vaguely recalled his mother saying something about that being a New Year’s tradition.  He and Jim were standing right next to each other, and he noticed that Jim made no move to kiss anyone.

 

“Well,” said Jim with a rather tired smile, “I think I’m gonna be heading back soon.  I’m a little worn out.”

 

“Of course.”  Said Spock.  They stopped by Sam and Aurelan briefly to let them know that Jim was going home to rest.  Spock followed him out to the shuttle station.  Before he boarded, Jim appealed to Spock once more.

 

“Seriously, you should think about going on that mission.  I may not like Pike’s nagging, but I think he’s right about this being a good opportunity for you.”

 

“What about you?”  Asked Spock, without thinking.  “What will you do while I am gone?”  He regretted asking that almost immediately.  He and Jim typically only saw each other once a week.  Jim had plenty of time without him already.  It was unlikely that not seeing him for a few weeks would affect him negatively.  However, Jim answered without any kind of negative inflection in his voice.

 

“I actually got a job a couple weeks ago, a computer repair and programming gig.  Ironically, they need me because one of their employees is on maternity leave and can’t do any work from home.  I can work from home, especially with that new padd Sam and Aury got me.  I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.  Plus, there’s always the library.  Once you get back, maybe we can go back to Golden Gate Park.  There’s still a few sights to see.”  Spock nodded.

 

“Very well.  I will think about Pike’s offer and send you a message soon.”  Jim smiled, said good night, and boarded the shuttle.  Spock returned to his quarters.

 

Two days later, he was still thinking about what Jim and Pike had said.  It did seem like a good opportunity for him, as a future scientist and Fleet officer.  And Jim seemed to want it for him.  He was still troubled by the thought of going away for so long, but Jim had been gone for several weeks previously as well.  He didn’t think there was too much harm in going.  It was logical to go, not only because of the benefits but because his friend, who wanted what was best for him, believed it would be good for him.

 

His mind made up, he began composing messages to both Jim and Pike, telling them that he was accepting the offer.

 

------

 

Five days later, Spock stood outside the air shuttle that was going to ferry him and the other cadets up to The Reliant, the ship that was going to Axanar.  He was waiting for the others to board, still a little reluctant to get on.

 

“Hey!”  He spun around and saw Jim hurrying over as quickly as his stomach would allow.  “I just wanted to see if you were still here to, you know, see you off and wish you luck.”

 

“Thank you Jim.”  Spock said, secretly delighted.

 

“When you get back, we can play chess again, and go back to the park, and you can tell me all about going to Axanar.  Or, you can write.  I’d love to hear how everything’s going.”

 

“I will do that.”  Promised Spock.

 

“Okay.”  Said Jim with a smile.  “Have a safe trip.”

 

“I will.”  Replied Spock.  Just before he boarded, his fingers lightly brushed Jim’s.  Then he turned and want inside, finding a seat.  Maybe someday, he’d be able to tell Jim he’d just stolen a New Year’s kiss, even if it was a week late.  The shuttle soon began to rise, and he let his thoughts clear for the mission ahead.

Chapter End Notes:


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Okay, some quick notes here.  Elizabeth Sterns was the first wife of Richard Webb, the guy who played Finney in TOS.  I don’t think Finney’s wife was ever named in the episode about him.  Anybody recognize the other TOS reference I threw in?  Anybody?  I also chose to call Number One ‘Majel’ because of the fact that she was the one Majel Roddenberry character who to my knowledge was left unnamed, at least in canon.  So I named her after her actress for this story.  And I really never had heard that name before, though I learned after I wrote this that there was a silent film actress with it.

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