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"I do not understand."

Jim Kirk tried not to sigh as he watched the expression of his new First Officer's face. Perhaps giving Spock a gift and trying to include him in the Christmas activities was a bad idea. Spock was holding the brightly wrapped gift stiffly away from his body as though he half expected it to explode in his face at any moment. Somehow, when he had this idea, that was not the reception Kirk had anticipated.

"It's a present, Spock," Kirk said patiently. "A Christmas present."

Spock considered his words carefully. Kirk could almost see the gears shifting in his head. "A gift for the natal day of your Jesus Christ," he said slowly. He thought this over and then pushed the gift back in Kirk's direction. "I do not observe that particular religious holiday, sir, nor do I observe any religious holidays whatsoever. As you are well aware, Vulcans prefer the use of logic to guide our lives."

Jim Kirk resisted the urge to sigh again. "You're my First Officer, Spock. As a new member of my command staff, I wanted to include you in the gift giving whether it is your holiday or not. I want you to be included in all team activities."

Spock shifted the small package from one hand to the other as though its minimal weight taxed his ability to hold the parcel. "I do not understand."

"You are my second in command now, Spock," Kirk said kindly. "I know that you are the only Vulcan in Starfleet and that your customs are different from ours, but I feel it is important to be inclusive. Everyone else is enjoying Christmas whether they are believers or not."

Spock's dark eyes met his. "I would not be your second in command had it not been for Commander Mitchell's unfortunate death. Would you have included me if he were still living?"

Kirk's stomach churned at the memory of Gary Mitchell's death. The few weeks since the incident had not been sufficient to heal the wound of his friend and First Officer's death. No, he thought sadly, if Gary were still here, things would be like they were last Christmas, and it would never have occurred to him that Spock was as isolated as he was. He, McCoy, and Gary Mitchell would have celebrated the holiday together again as they had other holidays in space with no consideration for Spock whatsoever except perhaps to discuss that peculiar Vulcan over the Science Division and what made him behave like he did.

But he didn't want to say that. It seemed cruel somehow to realize that Spock had spent the last twelve or thirteen years in Starfleet culturally and socially isolated and it appeared that no one had ever apparently made an effort to include him in the social activities of any ship on which he had served. Unless, of course, others had approached him and had received this sort of reception.

"Yes," Kirk lied smoothly, "I would have included you even if Gary were still here."

They both knew it was a lie, but Spock was gracious enough not to call him on it. "I appreciate the thought, sir, but it is unnecessary. I do not require gifts in order to function as a part of this ship's staff." He attempted to return the gift once more.

"I would consider it a personal favor, Spock," he said softly, "if you would accept the gift. Consider it to be a payment for past oversights."

Again, it was as though he could see the gears turning in that agile mind. Spock nodded. "I shall accept it if you ask. However, I have no gift to exchange with you. I had not anticipated being included in this particular ritual."

"You don't need to give me a gift, Spock, but perhaps you will join me for a game of chess if you feel the need to even things out. I have heard that you are the ship's chess master, and I haven't had a good opponent for a while."

"You play?"

Kirk tried not to take offense at the Vulcan's obvious surprise. "Now and then. I don't know if I will be much of an opponent since I haven't played for a while, but we won't know until until we try, will we?"

"Feel free to request a game anytime you are available, sir," Spock replied, his interest now engaged. "I seem to have discouraged many partners from future games in the past and generally play the ship's computer now."

"I will." Kirk noticed that the package still dangled in Spock's long hands. "Open it if you donít mind," he asked. "I'd like to see if you like it."

Spock looked carefully at the package and checked each side before lifting the tape on one side carefully to remove it from its position and then equally as gently removed it from the other side. "I have often wondered about the method of decorating gifts such as these," he murmured as he did, "but I have never had the opportunity to examine one up close."

"You have never received a gift?" Kirk said in surprise.

"Vulcans do not give gifts," Spock reminded him carefully.

"Never? I thought perhaps your mother..."

"No, my father did not agree to that custom so she honored his wishes. I have thought that it might be interesting to receive a gift."

Kirk's heart twisted at the thought of a human mother never being able to give her child a present, and for a moment he wasn't sure who he pitied more, Spock's human mother who had to ignore her own impulses or Spock's half human nature which had never been granted its full expression. Both seemed to be equally distressing.

He watched Spock's careful dissection of the wrapped gift and the care with which he loosened the gilded paper on the bright, cheery package. Somehow, the contrast between the gaily decorated form and the somber Vulcan could hardly have been more striking. Intrigued by the emotions he could suddenly see on the angular face, Kirk suddenly wondered why he could ever have thought the Vulcan had no emotions for here they were, his to read or ignore, if only he looked closely enough.

Entranced by his revelation, Kirk did not even object to the meticulous removal of the wrapping paper and ribbon despite the fact that the process seemed to last forever. But finally after much too long a process, Spock removed the last bit of decoration to reveal an ancient book of Vulcan poetry. His startled expression pleased Kirk to the core.

"It is a very old and rare volume," Spock said in awe as he gently touched the spectacularly decorated cover. "How could you know I had been looking for this?"

Kirk chuckled in delight. "Christmas miracles, Mister Spock. I have my ways, but on occasion even starship captains must keep their secrets. Let us just say that it came to my attention and I just happened to find a copy." He made a mental note to assure that Uhura received the small bribe he had offered her to look through Spock's personal communications for this information.

"Miracles, Captain? That seems unlikely," Spock murmured, his rapt examination of the old tome continuing.

"I will consider it a successful gift choice, Spock," Kirk said, "based upon your response." He turned. "I'm sure you have things to do, but I wanted to get that to you tonight." He paused and turned back to the Vulcan, encouraged by the exchange that had just occurred. "Would you be available for a game of chess tomorrow night, Spock?"

Somehow, even now, Kirk expected that he would receive a negative response as he had so many times before when he had made other attempts to acquaint himself with the reserved Vulcan. He was pleasantly surprised.

"I would find that an interesting challenge, sir. Perhaps we might set the time tomorrow at the end of shift?"

Success! Kirk smiled. "Certainly. I will look forward to it. Good night, Spock."

"Good night, sir."

As Kirk turned to go to his quarters, he was pleased to realize that he really did look forward to the prospect of spending time with Spock. That had never crossed his mind before, and he laughed aloud at the thought. Spock's response was encouraging. Maybe this was the start of a whole new relationship, he mused, wondering where it might take them.

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