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Title: definite and unapologetic
Pairing: Kirk/Spock
Beta: none
Rating: PG-13 for general language and some adult concepts.
Length: ~13,450 (split for LJ word count fail)
Summary: Jim finds a kindred spirit in Spock one Christmas, and Uhura engineers a little festive cheer of her own.

Author's Note: This was written for ksadvent and is horrendously late due to a whole pile of ridiculousness that happened this week, including nearly losing one of my patients on the table. If my life was half as fairytale as this story, I'd be one happy ficcer.




Prologue

James T. Kirk has been witness to a lot of shitty outcomes in his life. Take, for example, the day of his birth. He's well accustomed to the feeling that the universe is out to get him, a sentiment that when expressed to Bones just gets him a stern lecture on the disadvantages of persecution complexes. Jim doesn't feel persecuted; he just thinks the universe has a sick sense of humour. Either that, or sadistic tendencies. It used to be his own little inside joke, shared with nobody but the memories in his head; oh great, Sam runs away on the anniversary of Dad's death? Figures.

At least, that was the case until his first Christmas aboard the Enterprise.

He meets Spock in the turbolift, both of them having nominated themselves to run Alpha shift on Christmas Day because they're awesome like that. Spock bestows the slight incline of his head which is his way of saying 'hey man, what's up?' and took Jim about six freaking months to earn.

"Hey man, what's up?" he returns in kind, turning to stand shoulder to shoulder as the doors slide closed. He's expecting Spock to glance at the ceiling and raise an eyebrow before dismantling the illogical human idiom word by word. He kind of looks forward to those moments, actually, because the Spock will never admit it, but the stuffy bastard has an outstanding command of sarcasm.

Instead, Spock opens his mouth and pauses.

A frown begins to form on Jim's face.

Spock shuts his mouth and resumes staring at the interior of the turbolift.

Jim reaches out and slaps the emergency stop. The lift jerks to a halt. "Okay, seriously, now I mean it. What's up?"

Spock dutifully looks to the ceiling and says, "I fail to comprehend the ..."

"Yeah, you can forget that," Jim interrupts sternly, because Spock may be one scary motherfucker, but he's still the Captain. "Human expressions are ridiculous. Whatever. Now spit it out."

Spock looks tempted to attempt the same dissection upon the words 'spit it out' but takes a look at Jim's I'm-the-goddamn-Captain face and swallows instead. "I am merely distracted. There is no reason to be concerned."

"Uh huh," Jim nods. "Merry Christmas?"

Spock may actually wince. "Merry Christmas, Captain."

"Jim," he says. "Or else it's weird."

"Merry Christmas, Jim." Spock has himself under control now, but the effort it takes is evident in his flat tone and carefully blank expression.

"Merry Christmas, Spock. You seem illogically fucked up over a little human tradition; what gives?"

Spock gives the Vulcan equivalent of an exasperated sigh, which is to say he exhales slightly with his mouth closed. "With respect, your observation is subjective and irrelevant. I suggest that we continue to the bridge in order that Gamma shift may embark upon whatever seasonal celebrations they have planned."

"Okay, sure," Jim nods, restarting the lift. "But you can either talk to me at the end of the shift or I'll book you a psych session with Bones and put you on mandatory mental health leave."

"Captain," Spock actually sounds mildly scandalised, "there is no possible justification for such measures."

"You claim you're just distracted. Now, I don't buy that, but even if it's true, you haven't been distracted possibly ever, so I consider it relevant." Jim gives him a serious look. "You being distracted is like Chekov suddenly liking scotch instead of vodka, or Uhura having a gender identification crisis. Chekov loves vodka, Uhura is one helluva woman, and you don't get distracted. End of story."

A muscle in Spock's jaw clenches and Jim has a momentary strangulation flashback, but in the end, all Spock does is tug on the bottom of his shirt and say, "very well, Captain."

"It'll do you good to talk about it."

"I hold grave reservations."

"Fine by me."

Ten hours later, Jim wishes he'd kept his big mouth shut.

They're sitting in Jim's quarters, Spock on the other side of the desk and about as expressive as a stone, which makes Jim wonder why the hell his First Officer decided to tell the truth. Because it definitely is the truth.

"Motherfucker," Jim growls, hands tightening to fists on the table.

Spock remains silent but still somehow gives the sense that he is in complete agreement with the sentiment.

"So, let me get this straight," Jim screws his eyes shut and holds out a warning hand between them. "Not only is today your mother's birthday as well as Christmas Day, but your father called to tell you via a text comm that he's decided you can't officially be part of the family anymore due to the fact that the Vulcan High Council has their panties in a bunch over the gene pool?"

"Lacking in context, but essentially correct, yes."

Jim stares at him angrily. "What a shitty Christmas."

"Hence my distraction in the turbolift," Spock says, not exactly agreeing, but close. "Since today is almost over, I do not anticipate any further reductions in my efficiency."

"Screw your efficiency."

"Captain?"

"Did you celebrate Christmas?"

"Your question requires clarification. What point in my life are you referring to?"

"Any of it," Jim says tightly, "all of it. Today, for that matter."

Spock eyes him for a long moment and Jim fears he's pushed too far and Spock is over this whole honesty streak he's had going on so far. "Spock ..." he begins, warningly.

"I have engaged in some form of birthday and holiday tradition every year of my life for as long as I can remember," Spock interrupts him.

Jim takes a moment to grind his teeth together before he shoves his chair back angrily from the desk and pushes to his feet. "Right," he nods. "Right, then." He crosses to the replicator and snaps, "eggnog, two, warm." With a shimmer, two reindeer mugs appear and Jim snatches them up, slamming one in front of Spock with such vehemence that a little sloshes over the rim. "Cheers," he bites out, chinking the mugs together before raising his to his lips.

Spock tentatively lifts his own mug, avoiding the sticky overflow. His eyes are guarded and he does not drink from the mug. "While I appreciate the sentiment behind your intervention, this is unnecessary."

"No, Spock, it isn't." Jim licks his lips and holds his mug out challengingly. "My dad died on my birthday, Sam left on the tenth anniversary of his death, Frank put me in hospital on my sixteenth birthday, mom went missing on my twenty-first and four years ago I was too blind drunk to realise it was Christmas." He shrugs, arm still outstretched, reindeer prancing happily on the porcelain. "Apparently, the universe hates both of us, which has a weird kind of existential symmetry that we should definitely explore. Fuck Christmas, let's drink to getting shat on by karma."

Spock is hardly going to repeat such a toast, but he does finally lift his own mug and knock it carefully against Jim's before raising it to his lips.

-:-

Jim wakes the next day in a foul mood that has very little to do with the amount of eggnog he and Spock consumed the evening before. He downs two glasses of water and stares at his tongue in the mirror. A moment of self-pity never hurt anyone, especially when Spock is no doubt stalking around the ship completely unaffected. Bastard.

Still, he hasn't quite been able to assimilate the confessions of the night before. He doesn't tell anyone about his childhood, ever, and he doubts that Spock is particularly forthcoming about ... well, about anything really. It's possible he's told Uhura what's on his mind, but those two have some kind of bizarre on-again-off-again relationship that Jim has given up trying to figure out. The label that fits best is 'friends with benefits' but he has a hard time reconciling that concept with Spock's unfailing need to do everything properly.

He cleans his teeth vigorously and throws himself into the shower and into the day.

On the way to the bridge he bumps into Uhura who falls into step neatly, both of them adjusting their stride to suit the other. Jim can't help the awareness that he never has to do that with Spock; they just fit.

His Chief of Communications elbows him insubordinately in the ribs and asks, "so how many of the crew propositioned you yesterday?"

"About six," he answers, distractedly, "trying to cheer me up, or something, I don't know. Hey, did you get Spock anything for Christmas?"

"Spock?" she echoes, surprise etched all over her face. "Uh, no. Did you?"

"No," he confesses, suddenly feeling bad about it. Why Uhura alone should be obligated to discover whether the only Vulcan aboard celebrated Christmas, he had no idea. He was the goddamn Captain, after all.

"Oh my God, did he get something for you?" Uhura wants to know, strangely intense.

"No?" he replies, drawing out the single syllable cautiously. "We drank eggnog and played chess."

"Okay," she nods, ponytail swinging as she turns front and centre as they approach the turbolift.

"Okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

They step into the lift and turn, Jim unerringly entering their destination without looking. "Listen, I'm not a linguist, so if that 'okay' has layers upon layers of nuance I haven't gone there with you."

"I get that subtlety isn't your thing," she agrees, sounding a little irritated. "Couldn't hurt you to try a little harder, though."

He spreads his hands in a plea. "I am trying!"

"It's just ... someone should get Spock something for Christmas," she glares at him. "All I'm saying."

"And by someone, you mean ..."

She rolls her eyes and sighs, but there's a smile tugging at her lips. "Jim Kirk, you're a genius, so quit acting dumb."

"Christmas was yesterday, won't it be weird, like an afterthought?"

"It is an afterthought!" she snaps, grinning at him with that peculiar mixture of anger and amusement only she has mastered.

"Won't it be lame?"

"You're lame," she counters immediately.

"You're lamer."

"Noun not an adjective."

"Simmer down."

"Chief of Communications," she reminds him, both thumbs pointed at her chest. "Don't you forget it."

"So I have to get Spock an after-Christmas Christmas present," he clarifies. "For Christmas."

"I have an overwhelming desire to slap you," she tells him, still grinning, mostly because she's a terrifying piece of female awesomeness.

"Strange, that's pretty much what Spock said when I ..."

"Don't you dare finish that sentence!" she orders, laughing outright now.

"But, I was only going to say that ...."

She claps a hand over his mouth to shut him up just as the turbolift opens to reveal the bridge. Chekov, Sulu and Spock all swivel in their seats to stare at their diminutive Communications Officer forcibly silencing their Captain. Spock slowly raises an eyebrow.

"Twelve days of Christmas," Uhura whispers, "just a suggestion. And how about you remember I'm the source of that brilliant idea and the reason you don't have your foot in your mouth right now." She releases him and steps back.

"Jesus," he frowns, licking his bruised lips. "You're scary as shit, you know that?"

"You can thank me later."

Jim waits for her to exit the lift first before following cautiously in her wake. He watches her smother a laugh with one hand and give Spock's shoulder a gentle squeeze with the other before she takes her station. The Vulcan glances between Uhura and Jim, his face completely expressionless.

"Commander Spock," Jim calls out, pouring himself into the centre seat and punching in his command codes. "Sensor sweep, if you please."

"Aye, Captain."

Jim waits a beat so he knows Spock will be bent over his scanner, then turns to engage in silent visual communication with Uhura. That deteriorates into an exchange of rude gestures and culminates with her slapping her ass in dismissal and studiously ignoring him for the rest of Alpha shift. She's smiling though, so he's not worried.

Jim's pretty resourceful, so it doesn't take him long to research the twelve days of Christmas. He pulls up every version of the old song he can find, as well as contextual documentation, research and modern adaptations of associated Terran traditions. Most of it is vague or conflicting. Sometimes, if he's especially lucky, it's vague and conflicting. Still, that yields a certain amount of flexibility to the planning stage, which is a good thing since he has less than six hours before the first day of Christmas is over and no idea what Spock's corresponding gift is going to be.

He is aware that the simplest approach is to scrap Uhura's idea and simply give Spock a pair of socks and a rousing speech about how the Enterprise will always be his home, and the crew, his family. There might even be back-slapping if Jim is feeling particularly adventurous, and definitely more eggnog, since Spock seemed to like it. However, what most people fail to take into account is that Jim Kirk truly is a genius, and for the most part, it doesn't take a genius to run a starship. Not unless a time-traveling Romulan mental case is trying to destroy the Federation, anyway. Then it comes in handy. In short; Jim is bored a lot of the time.

Therefore, he throws himself into his research with unrestrained glee, twisting and turning the lyrics and customs to suit his ends. If his yeoman eyes him warily from time to time, it's only because he's chuckling maniacally under his breath, so he doesn't blame her.




A Partridge In A Pear Tree

When their shift ends, Spock invites him for a game of chess in the rec room. Jim watches those expressive brows fly up when he declines, citing administrative pressures and a surplus of paperwork. It's all he can do to keep the smile from his face when he follows that up with an invitation of his own; a nightcap, his quarters, about twenty two hundred hours.

Spock accepts with a nod.

Jim waits until he gets to his quarters before indulging in a fist-pump.

By the time he's spent two hours on comm-calls with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on Earth and another hour cursing out bureaucratic assholes, he gives up and hacks the system to find out who the right person to talk to might be. He hasn't got the time to navigate this endless abdication of responsibility and political insecurity; he needs this done.

When he gets T'Lar on the screen, he knows he's hit the jackpot. She is an older Vulcan female, mere tinges of grey at her temples attesting to at least a century of service in the Vulcan Diplomatic Council. He opens with a flawless greeting in High Vulcan and a perfect ta'al. The hard lines around her eyes soften almost immediately and Jim feels only a split second of remorse for taking advantage of the new emotional clout he has with Vulcans since Nero.

She listens to his terse, logical request in total silence, then nods. "This appears to be a mere formalisation of an existing known diplomatic state."

"Indeed," Jim agrees, somehow managing not to smile as he delivers one of Spock's patented lines.

"I shall ensure the relevant documentation is live on the network within the next few minutes, Captain Kirk," T'Lar promises.

"My thanks, Ambassador."

"None are necessary," she assures him, almost gently.

"All the same."

She inclines her head slightly, and Jim may be imagining the laughter in her eyes, but he doesn't think so. It's times like these that he understands Uhura's fascination with Spock and all-things-Vulcan; it's the subtlety that's so seductive, the feeling that you have to work for those hints of responsiveness. Jim's always been the kind of person who enjoys a high-stakes game. He and Uhura have that in common.

He spends so long in self-satisfied smirking that he barely has time to change out of his uniform and print off Spock's present before the door chime sounds.

"Enter."

Spock steps inside, still in uniform of course, and allows the doors to close behind him. His eyes sweep over Jim's characteristically cluttered desk and he clasps his hands in the small of his back. "I see your evening has been productive."

And that's sarcasm, Jim thinks, feeling a grin steal over his face. "Most productive, Mr. Spock," he agrees. "You have no idea."

Spock quirks an eyebrow, but Jim just waves him to a seat, clearing a space on the desk with a careless sweep of his arm that makes Spock give the impression of wincing, even though he doesn't.

"Did you know," Jim begins, his back to Spock as he fiddles with the replicator, "that in Terran mythology, the partridge symbolises many contradictory things?"

"I did not." Spock's voice is level, but there is the barest hint of confusion there, if you're a person who knows how to listen for it.

"The devil and the church," Jim says as he turns, "evil and goodness." He sets both mugs on the desk and takes his own seat, leaning back easily. "It's also used to indicate deceit or theft."

"Indeed?"

Spock's eyes are suddenly guarded, so Jim doesn't press any further, just raises his mug in salute and takes a sip. His first officer follows suit and for a time, silence reigns between them. Jim watches Spock watching him with a new sense of fragility. They've built a careful friendship over the last year or so; one that is based on mutual awareness of vulnerability and a tacit agreement not to push too far or too hard in those areas neither can tolerate. Jim begins to realise that by embarking upon this strange, festive show of goodwill, he's going to cross a line. Their unspoken agreement will have to bend a little, if not break entirely, breaching the safe familiarity of anger and loss. Jim watches Spock watching him and finds he's eager for it. It's time.

"The pear is an interesting fruit," Jim says, apropos of nothing.

"I find the taste satisfactory," Spock admits, perhaps wondering if Jim requires a visit to the sickbay.

"It's meaning is far less convoluted."

"I am familiar with some of the more common human symbolic associations."

"You are?"

"Yes."

Jim taps his fingers on the desk and says, "do you want to play chess?"

"That would be acceptable."

They play two games and win one each with very little conversation between moves. An unfamiliar tension fills the air, far from comfortable, with perhaps the slightest edge of apprehension thrown in. Neither suggests a third game, and Spock rises to leave as Jim fits the pieces into their slots with careless precision.

"I have something for you," he says, just as Spock tugs on his shirt preparatory to saying goodnight.

"Sir?"

"I'm not exactly giving it to you because it was yours to begin with," Jim explains, pulling the flimsy out of the drawer he'd stashed it in after his conversation with T'Lar. "So this is more a reminder than a gift."

Spock accepts the flimsy with a slight frown on his face. His expression softens and clears as he scans the certificate of Terran citizenship with quick flicks of his eyes. When he reaches the end of the page, he pauses, still staring at the print, for some reason unwilling or unable to look away.

Jim circles the table to stand beside him, feeling a little panicked and a lot proud of himself. For Spock, this is one hell of a reaction.

"Thank you, Captain," the Commander manages finally, voice so devoid of emotion that Jim wonders if that's what the pause was for.

"Jim, or it's weird."

Spock just nods.

"What about that pear?"

"The pear or pear tree symbolises a bond, especially a familial bond or one of love."

"If the Vulcans don't want you, we do," Jim paraphrases. "Your mother did."

"The significance of the partridge and the pear?" Spock wants to know, ever the scientist even if his hands clutch the flimsy a little too tightly when he finally looks up.

"You're the genius," Jim says gently, laying a firm hand on his shoulder, "you figure it out."

Spock stares at him for a very long time, his dark eyes measuring, not pulling away from the heat of Jim's hand. When he does move, it is almost apologetic, as though he longs for the assurance or the social experience to rest longer in the midst of whatever the hell it is they're sharing, but regretfully doesn't possess it.

"Goodnight, Jim."

"See you."

The Captain nods at the doors when they close behind his first officer.




Two Turtle Doves

The minute Jim starts researching the cultural connotations of turtledoves he knows he's in trouble. The damn things are universally linked to lovers and loving pairs. Apparently the ridiculous birds mate for life and spend their time plaintively calling to one another across forest floors the world over. God damn it, what is he supposed to do with that?

He toys with the notion of conspiring with Uhura and arranging a romantic dinner for the two of them, but comes to the insurmountable obstacle of honestly not knowing what kind of relationship they actually share with each other. He's seen them kiss only once, on the transporter pad before beaming onto the Narada. Spock hadn't seemed all that into it. Then again, since Jim has never seen Spock kiss anyone else, ever, what the hell does he know?

It's late and he's stumped, so he turns to the paperwork he'd claimed to be doing earlier as a means of distracting himself. He doesn't expect it to work, and he certainly doesn't expect to be handed a solution to his problem in the form of a medical order from Bones. He zooms in on the relevant portion of the latest psych-evals with glee. He may or may not grin at his screen.

There are many different kinds of love, after all, and many different bonds that people share. Rather than abdicating responsibility for the second day of Christmas, why not try to make that point himself? Spock has come a long way since their first mission together, but Jim can count on one hand the number of times the Commander has offered up personal information or shared anything for the sake of sharing, and still have fingers to spare. Jim has had his fair share of lovers, but very few friends, and he absolutely counts Spock amongst the latter. Perhaps he can satisfy his CMO and give Spock his second gift, all tied up in one tidy show of Captainly concern. Perfect.

-:-

Spock blinks at Dr. McCoy. "Trust exercises?"

"You heard me," Bones harrumphs. "Latest crew evaluations show that although we work well together, we could benefit from some further team-building scenarios and strengthening of command team dynamics."

"What, precisely, do you suggest?"

"I've drawn up a rotational roster. We can probably cover the whole crew in three days, or nine shifts depending on how you look at it, provided nothing untoward happens while we're en route to Delta Gamma Taurus. Everyone will work half shifts, relieving a skeleton crew by turn until the whole crew has participated."

"I see."

"Research shows that it's most beneficial to include a mix of existing professional relationships and new networking opportunities, so I've tried to keep command pairs intact whilst still mixing it up a little." Bones does his best not to look shifty.

Spock scans the PADD. "This undertaking has the Captain's approval?"

"Of course it does."

"Thank you, Doctor."

-:-

"Spock, quit stalling, I'm not going to drop you!" Jim's voice is filled with fond exasperation.

The Commander glances over his shoulder, staring placidly down at his Captain from the piled crash mats in the gym. "I fail to comprehend the purpose of this exercise."

"Like I've already said," Jim sighs, "it's designed to illustrate the fact that you can rely on me."

"As I know this to be true, the exercise is pointless."

"Maybe so, but everyone else has to do it, dammit, so shut your eyes and fall already!"

"Very well." Spock crosses his arms over his chest and gives the impression that he might have sighed if he were the sort of person who indulged such impulses.

Jim grunts a little under Spock's denser-than-human mass but manages to ease his First Officer to the padded deck without mishap. Spock opens his eyes and rises lithely to his feet; all fluid movement and impossible angles, like not even his bones and ligaments comply with human regulation. It's entirely possible they don't, Jim is forced to reflect.

"I caught you."

"As I anticipated."

"You really don't feel any different?"

"Is it now your turn to demonstrate your reliance upon me?" Spock asks conversationally.

"Forget it, let's just get a soda."

"I do not ..."

"Fine, tea then."

-:-

"I beg your pardon?"

Jim thinks Spock might actually be blushing, but it's difficult to tell in the dim observation deck lighting. "First kiss," he repeats himself. "How old?"

"Such information has no bearing on any facet of my role as either First Officer or Chief Science Officer aboard this ship," Spock enunciates clearly, his gaze stern, perhaps a little disapproving.

"This is still about trust," Jim presses, his motivation equal parts puerile curiosity and genuine hope that Spock will eventually engage in the whole process. "It's not something you'd normally tell me, so I want to know."

"I find your question ... offensive," Spock says after some consideration. "Vulcans do not share such information with one another except under extremely intimate circumstances."

"And what's more intimate than me holding your guts in on Sigma Ortega?" Jim demands, finding righteous indignation somewhere inside himself and digging in deep, "or you mind melding with me after that nasty business on that Romulan moon?"

Spock doesn't even blink.

Jim flails a little. "Why is this such a big deal? I'll tell you all about my first kiss."

"No."

"Spock!" he pleads.

"No, I do not wish to know about your first kiss," the Commander clarifies. "Instead, you will tell me one thing you regret."

"I'm beginning to regret this conversation." Jim tries for wry, but ends up with something in between bitchy and surprised. "Besides, apples for apples, Spock."

The Commander leans back into the seat and shrugs with one eyebrow. "Those are my terms."

"Are you shitting me?"

"I most certainly am not."

Linguistic barrier or no, Spock seems adamant and really, Jim's got a whole world full of regret he can exchange, so he gives in pretty quickly. "You first."

"I was seventeen."

"And?"

Spock blinks at him, nonplussed. "That is the answer to your question."

"I want more than just your age, dammit, that was just a suggestion to get the ball rolling."

"What further information do you require?"

"A name, for one thing, and oh, I don't know ... some details?" Jim huffs, glowering at him.

"Sokor was his name. He was two years older than I, and a student of the arts, not sciences. His family were also from Shi'Khar, but moved in different circles. I had not met him prior, nor have I seen him since."

This is totally not what Jim is expecting to hear. "Your first kiss was a guy?"

"You are surprised," he observes.

It is a statement, not a question, but Jim answers it anyway. "Uh, yeah. You've only had your tongue down Uhura's throat the entire first fifth of our five year mission."

"And from this erroneous assumption, you have made inferences regarding my sexuality."

"Trust me," Jim chuckles, "when it comes to your sexuality, I have nothing besides inferences, and what do you mean, ‘erroneous?’"

"This information is hardly relevant to our working relationship," says Spock, disapproving again. "Nevertheless, I have fulfilled my half of our bargain. I believe it is your turn."

"We'll get to that," Jim waves that aside. "Did you enjoy it?"

Spock does not pretend to misunderstand. "I found it ... intriguing."

"So are you gay? Bisexual? What?"

"I do not identify with either of those labels," Spock shifts slightly to look Jim in the eye, "and that is the limit of our discussion on the matter."

Jim holds up his hands in surrender, still off balance after the initial revelation. "Okay, sure."

"You will now answer my question," Spock tells him, and it's almost an order.

Jim considers fobbing him off with one of the hundreds of fucked up things he's lived to think better of, but something about the tension in Spock's shoulders makes him feel like an asshole for even considering an easy out. He's pushed Spock pretty hard and got a heck of a lot more than he bargained for. The Vulcan looks uncomfortably exposed and slightly angry about it.

"I wish I'd told Carol to keep the baby," Jim blurts out, face heating instantly with remorse and self-recrimination. "But I was a coward; too fucking self absorbed to be a father, too scared to imagine that I might be capable of that kind of responsibility for another human life."

Spock is suddenly very still; his eyes twin points of intensity, capturing Jim's and holding them relentlessly. "And yet, you are currently responsible for over five hundred human and non-human lives," he says, voice quietly intense.

Jim swallows. "And it scares the everloving shit out of me."

Spock holds the stare for a few moments longer and then releases him, turning to gaze at the passing stars once again. Jim wipes the unexpected perspiration from his brow with the gold fabric of his sleeve ... his Captain's sleeve. He swallows heavily.

"I am beginning to see the virtue of these so-called 'trust exercises,'" Spock says quietly.

"That's a pity, because I'm cancelling the rest of the day."

"I had anticipated as much."

"Really?"

Spock nods, once, to the viewport. "Indeed."




Three French Hens

The twenty eighth of December is relatively straight forward. Three French hens. Bugger the French, thinks Jim, it's the hens that hold the meaning in that verse. Hens are about family, about mothering and connections. He knows exactly what to do.

By midday he has Spock seated in front of the comm screen in the Captain's ready room, hands folded neatly in his lap, a slightly concerned frown perched between his upswept brows.

"Ta da!" Jim says with a flourish, as the connection to New Vulcan forms and Sarek's face materialises.

Spock somehow manages to sit even taller in his seat, his posture reaching new heights of perfect.

"Father."

"Spock."

The silence holds for a few moments, which is when Jim feels the first stirrings of dread in the pit of his stomach.

"I trust you are well," the Vulcan Ambassador says flatly.

"I am in adequate health."

"That is fortunate."

"Indeed."

Spock waits a few seconds then asks, "was there a reason for your communication?"

Sarek's eyes flick to Jim and then back to his son. "Captain Kirk thought it would benefit your mental and emotional stability if we were to engage in conversation at this time."

"Did he?"

"He did."

Spock turns his head slowly until his unreadable eyes are boring into Jim's. "How fascinating."

The Captain swallows heavily. "I'll just leave you guys to it, shall I?" he asks, then beats a hasty retreat.

Spock waits until the doors are fully closed before turning back to his father.

"Spock," Sarek sighs, his tone instantly warmer and perhaps slightly amused. "Why do you persist in punishing James Kirk for his humanity?"

"It is not punishment, Father."

"What would you call it, if not punishment?"

Spock quirks an eyebrow. "Education?"

-:-

Jim spends the remainder of Alpha shift living in fear of his First's response to the little family reunion he'd organised without so much as a by your leave from Spock himself. However, when the shift concludes, the Commander falls into step with him as usual and even suggests a game of chess in the rec room. It's not a game in one of their quarters, but it feels like an olive leaf to Jim and he accepts with alacrity.

They play three games and Spock wins all of them. Jim is beginning to suspect that Spock can beat him any time he likes and only lets him win now and again under suffrage. Jim wants to tell him his ego can take the punishment, but after the debacle in the ready room, he's not entirely sure that's true anymore. It had been a classic example of one of his wilder schemes gone awry; the kind that Spock usually saves him from before they happen.

When he tips his king to Spock for the third time, he mutters a hasty excuse and escapes to his quarters. Spock blinks in surprise, but says nothing. Jim takes that as a good sign.

The Captain gets very little sleep that night, alternately wracking his brains for something to suit the fourth day of Christmas and laughing at himself for taking the whole thing so seriously. What had started as a simple desire to give Spock a sense of seasonal celebration has morphed into something simultaneously subtle and yet so blatant that Jim doesn't have a name for it. All he knows is the vision of Spock kissing some bohemian Vulcan peer and the need to repair any damage he did with that comm call earlier in the day are warring behind his eyes, making sleep an impossible dream.

He hums a lyric to himself, then laughs into the darkness and flings an arm over the bridge of his nose. He has the sensation of being somehow utterly screwed, but can't identify why.




Four Calling Birds

Jim is almost one hundred percent certain that Spock will shoot him down instantly, so it's somewhat of a surprise when the Commander steeples his fingers and raises them to his lips instead.

"What do you hope to gain by attempting Vulcan meditation?"

"I don't know," Jim flounders, "whatever you get out of it?"

Spock raises both his eyebrows. "A greater comprehension of the complexity of your katra?" he asks dubiously.

"Yeah, exactly."

Spock blinks. "It is a worthy goal, but I am curious about the timing of your request. We are en route to the Klingon Neutral Zone and your particular skills will be much in demand. I am given to understand that a select few crewmembers from the Enterprise will spearhead a search and rescue team on Rua Penthe. Would your time not be better spent formulating an insertion and exit strategy?"

"Perhaps this will help me focus."

Spock's eyes narrow. "Perhaps."

"Is that a yes?"

The Commander gestures towards his sleeping alcove. "Remove your boots and sit facing the wall."

"We're doing this now?"

"You have a pre-existing appointment?"

"No," Jim rises hastily to his feet, "no, not at all, I just kind of thought you'd refuse."

"Then you must let go of such assumptions and the practices that generate them if you hope to achieve even the first level of Vulcan meditation."

"Okay, sure," Jim nods, tugging off his second boot and padding over to the plain scarlet mat Spock often has spread out beside his bed. He hunkers down and crosses his legs easily. "What now?"

"Cease your questions and await further instructions."

"Wow, you're a bit of a control freak, you know that?"

"Control is paramount."

"I gathered."

"Close your eyes and rest your hands on your knees," Spock instructs, folding gracefully into a matching pose at the other end of the mat, facing Jim. "Allow your breathing to become easy and regular, with your focus lightly resting on the exhalation."

Jim finds it difficult to shift his concentration from the rush of success he's feeling at getting Spock to acquiesce to this request, but he manages, because like hell is he going to fail at this and ruin Spock's present. He listens to Spock's level baritone as it guides him through the process of withdrawing his external perception to exist purely in a state of anticipatory stillness. It's remarkably challenging for someone with a mind like Jim's; accustomed to dealing with multiple inputs simultaneously and navigating through them in the shortest possible time. Spock seems to understand, because every time Jim's mind wanders, the Commander's words guide him gently and inexorably back to the exhalation, to the still point.

Time after time, Jim ruins his successes by experiencing either frustration or triumph, depending on how well he's doing. Still, there is always Spock's guidance, his frighteningly accurate assessment of Jim's progress, to help him deal with either outcome. Do not punish yourself for thinking, thinking is a natural process; it is illogical to experience anger at oneself for acting according to one's nature. Or alternatively; there is no winner or loser, no right or wrong, no cause to celebrate what has always been inside you, unrecognised; it simply exists, with or without your notice.

Spock's hand closes lightly around his sleeve and Jim startles, wondering if he'd ruined everything by falling asleep. By the slightly puzzled look on his First Officer's face, it's a distinct possibility.

Spock releases him and leans back into his full lotus. "You are remarkably adept for someone so poorly versed in meditative techniques."

"I think that was a compliment?"

"Merely an observation."

Jim goes to uncross his legs and several muscles protest all at once, causing him to gasp and clutch at them in surprise. "Son of a bitch! How long have we been doing this?"

Without needing to glance at the chrono, Spock answers confidently, "three hours, twenty seven minutes and four seconds, Captain."

"Three hours?"

"You did spend the first forty minutes adjusting to the technique," Spock reveals, sounding almost as shell-shocked as Jim feels. "I judged it prudent to interrupt your meditative state, despite your success, as it is approaching the hour at which you customarily eat dinner."

"You're saying I actually got it?"

"For two hours, forty seven minutes and fourteen seconds, yes."

"That's good, right?" Jim wants to know, massaging his knotted left calf muscle with a hiss of discomfort.

"It is most ... unexpected."

That is a strange thing for Spock to say, so it's hardly surprising that Jim feels the urge to prod and poke. "Can we do it again some time?"

Spock stares at him with the interest of a scientist with a new specimen locked into his microscope. "I am amenable to your suggestion."

"Great!" Jim pushes to his feet with a few clicks and pops. "We can alternate chess and meditation. Will I see you in the mess?"

"Negative," Spock says, still seated. "I believe I will remain here and continue to meditate."

"Suit yourself."

The Captain almost makes it to the door.

"Captain?"

"Commander?"

Spock is still glaring at him, wearing something like the bastard child of a frown and a blank look of shock. "I am gratified that of all the practitioners of meditative techniques aboard the Enterprise, you sought instruction from me."

Jim grins. "I trust you not to laugh at me when I screw it up."

"That is statistically unlikely," he replies.

Jim's smile morphs into something gentler as he turns away, cherishing the barest hint of amusement in Spock's voice as he exits the Commander's quarters. Four Calling Birds, he thinks to himself, colly birds, blackbirds, symbols of a shift in consciousness or awareness. It had gone better than he expected.



On to Chapter 2 ...

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
badluck97
Dec. 24th, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC)
I love this and I love you. Just sayin'.
whochick
Dec. 24th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC)
First comment, ftw! Thanks luv ;)
badluck97
Dec. 24th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
Everything you write makes me want to be your biggest fan.

*hugs* Anytime darlin'!
awarrington
Dec. 31st, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
I'm finally got round to this - still with a backlog to read. I just wanted to say what a fabulous writer you are and how much I'm loving this story.

You really have both Jim and Spock's characters nailed and I love all the nuances you inject into them. I'm also loving the dissection of the Twelve Days of Christmas - I'd never thought about its symbology before and love how it's being meted out to Spock.

On to the next chapter...
whochick
Dec. 31st, 2010 08:26 am (UTC)
Thank you for taking the time to read this, especially with so much excellent fic/art offered up for Advent. Since I adore your writing, your feedback means a great deal :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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