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Jim swiveled the Captain’s chair to and fro. First to the right, then the left, repeat. He varied the speed—slowing it down and then speeding it up. Eventually he got up to a frantic velocity, and was just beginning to wonder if he could convince Scotty to make it spin in a full circle, when a firm hand came to rest on the chair, stopping Jim abruptly.

“Captain, are you aware that you are manipulating your chair in a most distracting manner?”

Jim grinned, embarassed. “Sorry, Spock. Won’t happen again.”

Spock stepped closer to Jim and discreetly lowered his voice.

“Are you experiencing stress, Captain? I have observed that stress in humans can often result in unintentional physical tics such as tapping one’s foot or, perhaps, swiveling one’s chair at unreasonable speed to the point that one’s first officer is no longer able to focus on his work.”

Jim smiled. Spock always knew just when to play the analytical alien to cheer Jim up. Injected with Spock’s subtle humor, the little jokes held a distinct pleasure for Jim. A warm feeling began to spread in his chest, and just as quickly as he had begun to relax, anxiety and self-consciousness flooded his brain again. He hastily looked away from Spock’s face—why did he have to come so close?—and said, “I’m fine, Spock. Just nervous about having my mom on the ship.”

Spock nodded. “It can indeed be difficult to have one’s parent occupy one’s work space. But logically your mother could find little fault with the Enterprise, which you run most efficiently.”

And the compliments. Jim could do without the compliments.

“Thanks, Spock. Unfortunately, my mom is anything but logical.”

The briefest look of concern flashed in Spock’s eyes before quickly being concealed. Over the year-and-a-half that they had served together, Jim had confided in Spock several times about his troubled relationship with his mother. As the two men grew closer, slowly moving past their initially caustic rapport, Jim had revealed scattered details about his childhood that deeply troubled Spock. Jim insisted that it was a complicated situation, that his mother wasn’t entirely at fault, nor entirely an inadequate parent, but Spock was skeptical.

Indeed, Spock was slightly reluctant to meet the captain’s mother; he was concerned that he would not be able to maintain a cordial attitude toward her, given his knowledge that she had intentionally spent as much time off-planet as possible, leaving Jim and his brother at the mercy of their stepfather. Spock quickly checked himself. Of course he would be able to maintain a cordial attitude. His control over his emotions was strong and secure.

A call from engineering came through on Jim’s arm rest, and he answered with a terse, “Kirk here.”

“Cap’n, your mother’s shuttlecraft has come into sensor range,” came Scotty’s voice through the comm system. “Estimated time of arrival is five minutes.”

“Thanks, Scotty. Kirk out.” Jim stood and strode to the turbolift, Spock following close behind. As they entered, Jim said, “Sulu, you have the con,” and the door swished shut before them.

They entered Shuttlebay a few minutes later, just as Winona’s ship was shutting down, a few ensigns shuffling around it. A door swung upward and a staircase descended, and Winona Kirk emerged from her craft, a small traveling bag in hand. She waved at Jim and Spock and began to head their way. Jim, Spock noticed, had arranged a smile on his face, and his anxiety was nearly undetectable.

“Hi, Mom. Welcome aboard,” he said, as Winona reached them. He leaned down to hug her, and she squeezed him tightly. It had been a long time since they had seen each other, and Jim could tell that she was trying to convey a lot through a short hug.

“Thanks, Jimmy. I’m so excited to finally be on your ship!”

She released him, and turned to Spock with a smile. Her face was open and attractive, youthful though she was in her late forties and the weight of hard years was evident in her eyes.

“Mom, this is Mr. Spock, my first officer.”

Winona smiled and nodded at Spock, politely not offering a handshake or other physical contact.

“It’s a true pleasure to meet you, Mr. Spock. It seems like every conversation I have with my son revolves around you, so it’s nice to actually meet you in person.”

Kirk blushed, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Spock, and said, “Mom! Spock’s my first officer—we spend, like, all of our time together. Obviously I would mention him a lot. Come on, I’ll take you to your quarters so you can put your stuff down.” He turned to Spock, although he didn’t meet his eyes. “I’ll see you in a little while, Spock? Once my mom’s settled in, I though we could give her the tour.”

“That will be satisfactory, Captain.”

“Great.” Kirk grabbed his mom’s bag and bustled her none too gently out of the shuttlebay and towards the guest quarters.

When they reached her room, Jim put down her bag and went to the replicator. “Do you want a coffee or anything, Mom?”

“A coffee would be great, honey.” As Winona began to unpack she cast an appraising look at her son, who was programming her coffee just the way she liked it: two sugars and plenty of milk.

“Thanks,” she said, as Jim handed her a Starfleet-issue mug. The coffee was good; the Enterprise obviously had much better replicators than the ships Winona had served on.

“I’m so happy to be here, Jimmy. We haven’t spent Thanksgiving together since… well, I can’t even remember!”

“I was thirteen,” said Jim.

Winona looked briefly away. The hurt was there in Jim’s voice. She had never made it a priority to spend holidays with her sons; in fact, she had avoided it. Holidays made her think of George, every time. She knew that Jim held it against her for leaving him alone on those days, but she was here now, and that was as much as she could do.

“Well, that’s much too long,” she said. “Will it be just you and me tomorrow night or are you doing a crew thing?”

“I’m having a big dinner for my senior crew. I thought it would be nice to have you there.”

“I can’t wait,” she said. On impulse, she hugged him again.

“You look handsome in your uniform, Jimmy,” she said.

“Oh, Mom.” Jim rolled his eyes, but Winona could tell he was pleased.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to embarrass you back there in the shuttlebay,” she said. “I just thought Spock would like to know how much you enjoy serving with him.”

“Spock is Vulcan, Mom. He doesn’t care one way or the other if I like working with him; all he cares about is that we work well together. You kind of made me sound like a teenager with a crush.”

“Jimmy! I most certainly did not. That’s all in your head. Maybe you do have a crush on him,” she joked with a laugh.

Jim blushed again. “Mom, come on! Seriously, I’m a captain now. How about not treating me like a little kid? I don’t have crushes on my officers. Listen, I have work to do. Call the bridge when you’re settled in and I’ll take you around the ship.”

With that he hurried out of the guest quarters, bumping into a chair on his way out. Winona stared after him. She had known that their reunion would be awkward, difficult, but somehow she was pretty sure that Jimmy’s outburst had nothing to do with her. She had touched a nerve by talking about Spock. Lost in thought, she unpacked slowly, sipping her coffee.

As Jim and Spock gave Winona her tour of the ship, she began to form some pretty solid suspicions about Jim. He threw an easy smile Spock’s way every few minutes, his eyes lingering, taking Spock in. When Spock was speaking, Jim watched him and followed his words with a grave attention, as if they were discussing dire ship’s business, not casually explaining experiments and technologies to a guest. When they visited the science labs, Jim showed off Spock’s work with over-the-top excitement, pride shining on his face. A few times he casually touched Spock—a thump on the back as he bragged about him, a quick touch on the elbow as they maneuvered into a turbolift—and Winona was surprised to see that Spock allowed it. Indeed, they seemed to have an unspoken communion; their movements flowed in tandem, as if choreographed. They walked in unison and finished each other’s sentences. Sometimes Jim would laugh at something Spock said, something Winona hadn’t realized was funny, but from the way Spock’s dark eyes sparkled, watching Jim laugh, she was sure they had just shared a private joke.

Jim’s embarrassment and sensitivity about Spock made sense to Winona now: her son was in love with his first officer.

 

*

Jim had worked hard to turn a corner of the garden observatory into a proper Thanksgiving table—he had covered a long Starfleet-issue conference table with a table cloth he’d bought on Starbase 6, and he had commissioned Sulu a few months ago to grow some ornamental squashes for decorations. He had even—secretly—made some garlands out of popcorn and replicated cranberries. And he had planned the menu very carefully, and worked with Scotty to make sure the replicator could handle it. He was pretty sure he had never put this much effort into something so domestic, but he couldn’t help it—he was grateful. Their first year had been full of bumps and roadblocks, from difficult missions to admirals that didn’t trust such a young and inexperienced crew. He had proved a formidable captain and he was proud of that, but he knew he never could have done it without help. And so he encouraged the crew to make a big deal out of holidays—throw parties, uphold their respective traditions. It was good for crew morale and they deserved it.

On Thanksgiving night, Jim arrived early and made sure all the food was laid out correctly and that the decorations looked good. His guest began to trickle in: Spock was a few minutes early and was the first to arrive, followed by Bones, Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, Sulu, and finally his mother. The senior staff had met Winona yesterday on her tour of the bridge, and they were all being especially welcoming to her. Everyone greeted her warmly and Jim pulled out a seat for her next to him.

“Dig in, everyone,” he said, as soon as they were all sitting down, “The food’s getting cold.”

Everyone started to serve themselves from the platters and tureens laid out on the tablecloth, but Bones cast a suspicious eye over the food.

“Jim, where’s the turkey?”

“No turkey this year, Bones. The food’s vegetarian.”

Bones gave him a scandalized look. “No turkey? What the hell kind of Thanksgiving is that?”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Come on, Bones. Spock’s a vegetarian. It’s nice to be welcoming and considerate, remember? I know that’s easy to forget in that acerbic little brain of yours—”

“Now wait just a damn minute!” said Bones, “Just because Spock doesn’t eat meat doesn’t mean I have to eat tofu!”

“There’s no tofu, Bones, there’s stuffed squash and vegetarian shepherd’s pie.”

Winona, along with several members of the crew, glanced at Spock. He was staring down at his food, and a green blush was spreading from his cheeks to the tips of his ears. He was visibly embarrassed but trying not to show it.

“Captain,” he said into his green beans, “It was unnecessary to alter the menu merely for my consideration. I am the only vegetarian in a group of nine individuals. It would have been more logical to simply allow me to partake only of the vegetarian dishes. I would not have been offended by the presence of meat.”

Jim’s eyes were wide as he took in Spock’s embarrassment. “I just thought—I thought it might be nice for you not to have to ask about the ingredients for once.”

“A thoughtful sentiment, Captain, but illogical and unnecessary.”

There was an awkward silence. Seeing the discomfort he had caused, Bones snapped, “Well, I don’t care anyway! The food all looks good, and it’s healthier without meat. You’d do well to eat vegetarian more often, Jim!”

Scotty chimed in a with an overly descriptive report of how he had modified the replicators to accommodate Jim’s menu, and eventually someone interrupted him and normal conversation resumed. Everyone started laughing and carrying on, but Winona could tell that Jim’s participation in the banter was half-hearted. Spock didn’t say anything at all.

“So, Commander Kirk,” said Scotty after a while, “Jim tells me ye sold yerself short when we met yesterday. He says yer quite a brilliant engineer.”

“Oh, well, Jimmy exaggerates,” said Winona, “But I have worked hard, yes.”

“Nonsense! I looked up yer record an’ you were valedictorian of yer class at the Academy! Why didn’t ye end up a chief engineer?”

“Well,” said Winona slowly, “That was my plan, but then the boys came along, and when George died, well… It just didn’t happen, in the end.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry, Commander,” said Scotty softly.

“Don’t be!” Winona tried to turn the mood around. Jimmy had worked hard on this dinner and the uncomfortable beginning had already sullied it. “I’ve had a great career. I’ve traveled to all kinds of planets and done crazy things I never imagined when I was at the academy. There are all kinds of adventures you end up having when you work in the sleazier parts of the universe!”

Scotty laughed and raised his wine glass to her, “Ye got that right, lassie!”

When everyone was finished, Jim stood up a little stiffly.

“So, guys, things like this aren’t really my specialty, but I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am to have you as a crew, and to thank you for helping me this past year. I consider every one of you a dear friend and a valued colleague. And I wanted to thank you, Mom, for coming and spending this holiday with us.” He smiled at Winona, and she touched his arm. “But most of all, I owe gratitude to Mr. Spock, who has stood by me even when he thinks I’m being an idiot, and saved my hide on several occasions. I think we make a pretty damn good command team, and I couldn’t do it without you, Spock. So, yeah. That’s what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.”

He sat down somewhat awkwardly amid everyone toasting their glasses and giving Jim warm responses across the table. Winona watched Jim glance nervously at Spock, who offered a small nod. To Winona it seemed paltry, but Jim beamed, and their eyes lingered on each other for a moment longer than was strictly necessary.

 

*

The next morning, Jim and Winona had breakfast together and then Jim came back to Winona’s quarters to help her pack.

“I had such a wonderful time seeing you, Jimmy,” said Winona as she folded a shirt into her case. “Your ship is amazing.”

Jim wasn’t really helping so much as sitting on Winona’s bed scanning an article she was reading on one of her PADDs. He looked up and smiled. “Thanks, Mom. I’m really glad you got to see it.”

Winona reached out and touched his check. It wasn’t normal for them, and Jim balked, but he let her do it.

“I know it’s been rough for us, Jimmy, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But I’m so, so proud of you. I hope we can make time to see each other more often, even if you are a busy captain now.”

Jim took a deep breath. “I hope so, too, Mom. But, I… I guess I’m still mad.”

“I know, honey. You have every right to be.”

Jim smiled a small smile. “But will you still let me know whenever you have leave time? I’ll make it happen so we can see each other.”

“I promise.” And she meant it.

She ruffled Jim’s hair and he rolled his eyes, and the moment passed.

“So, Jimmy. Anyone special in your life these days?” she said lightly, perhaps a bit too lightly.

Jim gave her a hard, long look. “Nope. Why? Did you have someone in mind?”

“Honey. I’m not blind. I can see how you feel about Spock.”

Jim blushed and looked away, but he didn’t slam out of the room or get up and bump into something, which Winona took for encouragement.

“Why haven’t you told him?

“He’s a Vulcan, Mom! I’m not even sure they know how to love!”

Winona smiled. “Love, huh? That’s one I haven’t heard from you before.”

Jim clamped his mouth shut, realizing that he’d caught himself in a trap.

“Vulcans have emotions, Jimmy, they just control them through logic. Didn’t you take xenobiology?”

“Um, I got the Enterprise before I could take it.”

Winona laughed. “Ok, well, I did, and I can assure you that Vulcans have emotions. Actually, I took that class with your dad.” Her eyes got a bit of a far-off look, and Jim shifted uncomfortably. She shook her head. “Besides, isn’t Spock only half Vulcan?”

“Yeah, but he follows the Vulcan way, or whatever.”

“Jimmy, that man looks at everything around him like it’s vaguely offensive, but he looks at you like you’re a beautiful science experiment. Don’t be so self-conscious that you don’t see the signals he’s sending you.”

Jim stared at her for a long time, so long that she started to pack again. Eventually Jim said quietly, “Did Dad ask you out, or did you ask him, or what?”

They never talked about George. Winona had always rebuffed Jim’s questions. She was tempted to do so again, but she remembered her promise to be a better part of Jim’s life and forced herself to answer.

“He asked me out.”

Jim didn’t answer, obviously waiting for more but, from the growing scowl on his face, confident that she wouldn’t provide it.

Winona took a deep breath and sighed. “It was right around this time of year. It was Christmastime. Christmas always makes me think of him.” Jim sat up straighter, surprised. “He was awkward and shy around girls, nothing like you. We were friends, but I wasn’t interested in more because I was so focused on school. So he started writing me these little letters. I guess they were love letters. Telling me about himself. Making me start to like him. He sent me one every day until Christmas. We got together on Christmas Eve. And every year after that he still wrote me a letter on Christmas Day. A real, paper letter. It was our special thing.”

She broke off and turned away, under the pretense of picking something up off the table, but really she just didn’t want Jim to see her upset.

“Do you still have the letters?” Jim asked from the bed.

Winona pulled herself together and looked at him. He was so young still, only 26, and sitting on her bed with his wide blue eyes, he looked so fragile. She had done that to him. She had instilled that core of sadness and hurt that Jimmy tried hard to ignore, but she worried he would never be free of it.

Winona went back to her suitcase and unzipped an inner pocket, pulling out a packet of letters tied with a Christmas ribbon. She handed it to Jim.

“I bring them with me wherever I go. He and I were supposed to travel the universe together, so instead I travel with these.”

Jim took them carefully and turned them over in his hands. Winona said, “I should have let you and Sam read them a long time ago, I guess. It’s just always been my secret with your dad. You can give them back to me next time we see each other.” Jim looked up at her and she smiled. “No better incentive to make sure we get together again. But if your ship gets blown up in the meantime I’ll bring you back from the dead and kill you myself. Got it?”

Jim grinned. “Got it.”

 

*

Jim and Spock saw Winona off in the shuttlebay. Jim gave her a long hug, much longer than when she had arrived. Spock noted that there was no anxiety in his body language. He could only assume that the visit had gone well.

Winona offered Spock the Ta’al and a big smile. “It was a pleasure to meet you Mr. Spock. I hope we’ll be seeing more of each other.” She winked at Jim. Spock did not understand the interaction, but raised the traditional salute in return. “That is unlikely, given the Enterprise’s schedule, but I will be gratified if it transpires.”

Winona laughed. It should have offended Spock, but her laugh was like Jim’s: loud and bright. He could not be offended by such a display.

“Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock.”

“Peace and long life, Commander Kirk.”

Winona gave Jim a kiss on the cheek before boarding her craft. She turned and waved before ducking inside, then the door swung shut and she was gone.

Walking back to the bridge, Jim was quiet. Spock could not help but look at him repeatedly out of the corner of his eye. If the Captain was emotionally affected, it could be a detriment to his command, requiring Spock to pick up his slack. It was logical to determine Jim’s emotional state.

“Was your visit with your mother satisfactory, Captain?”

Jim turned to Spock with a sunny smile. The smile that could light the darkest space. Spock checked himself.

“It was really good, Spock. I think things might be turning around with us. We’ll see how things go from here.”

“She cannot undo the wrongs she committed in your childhood.”

“No, but she said she’d stay in touch more now, and if she can stick to that promise, at least, I might be able to forgive her. I’d rather have a future with her than not, you know?”

Spock was silent, but he felt relief, and he would not try to suppress it.

That night, Jim sat on his bed and untied the ribbon securing the letters. They were stacked in order, the oldest on top. It was a faded white envelope with a Christmas card inside. Jim opened it and began to read.

 

~*~

Winona hurried through the cold rain, her umbrella useless, her shoes soaked through. She still had to cross the main green spilling out under the looming Starfleet dormitory building, so she squinted her eyes and shouldered against the wind.

When she finally burst into her dorm room, her roommate Jesse looked up from her desk and laughed.

“How’s the weather?

Winona rolled her eyes. “Merry fucking Christmas. This December has been disgusting.”

“That’s why I’ve stayed inside all day. How was your study date with George?

“It wasn’t a date!” Winona unwound her damp scarf and gratefully pulled off her shoes and socks, finding her slippers under the bed.

“Sure it wasn’t. That explains why you had to trek through the city in the pouring rain to George’s apartment just to be even more prepared for your xenobiology exam. That you spent the past two nights studying for.”

Winona sat down on her bed and pulled a blanket around herself. Even the temperature controls in the dorm couldn’t keep out the damp chill. It seeped in their window on wet winter nights and made it hard to get warm.

“Listen, I like George. But I don’t have time for a boyfriend. I’ll be an engineer on a starship next year, and in a few years I’ll be chief engineer on a constellation-class vessel and I won’t have time for a boyfriend then, either. I’ll be spending all of my time in space.”

Jesse shrugged. “Yeah, I know. You’ve got big dreams. Oh, this came for you while you were away.” She tossed a paper envelope at Winona and it landed on the bed. Winona picked it up and looked it over: it was white with a red flap.

“Who do you know that sends you old-fashioned greeting cards?”

“No one,” said Winona. She opened the envelope and drew out the card inside. It had a Christmas tree on the front with little silver dots of glitter for ornaments. Inside was written,

Dear Winona,

So you’ve just come back from studying with me. I’m sure I was completely unimpressive. I’m sure we’re still just friends. I’m not very good at all of this. I’m not very good at expressing myself and I get nervous around girls. Especially you. This part, the getting-to-know-each other part, is hard for me. And I really, really like you, so I’m pretty sure that when we’re together I’m way too awkward to make much of an impression. So I’m skipping that part, the awkward part. I’m just going to tell you, right here where it’s easier and not to your face, that I’m falling for you. See you tomorrow in class.

George

Winona read the letter a few times. Suddenly self-conscious, she covered her mouth to hide a small, embarrassed smile. Jesse was busy with schoolwork again, though, so Winona tucked the card back in the envelope, put in on her bedside table, and put a few PADDs on top of it. She wasn’t sure how the letter made her feel. Kind of awkward, at least. But maybe a little excited. Maybe.

In xenobiology class the next day, George greeted Winona and chatted about the exam, but he didn’t mention the letter. Winona wondered if it had been a joke, something Jesse had done maybe, and she found herself surprisingly disappointed.

When she got back from class, however, another envelope had been slipped under the door. She opened it and stood reading without even taking her coat off, dripping on the carpet.

Dear Winona,

How did the test go? I’m sure you aced it and, thanks to our study session yesterday, I’m pretty sure I did, too. I only have one more exam and then I’m done for the semester, but I’m taking a class over the break, so I’m not going home for Christmas. Here are the things I’m going to miss:

My mom’s homemade Christmas candy and her stuffing.
The stupid Christmas music that my grandmother insists on playing too loud.
Digging out our old decorations with my sister and putting them up together.
Snow—Iowa gets a lot of snow.
My dog. His name is Galileo. I named him when I was little and all I could think about was space.

George

Winona tucked the letter back in the envelope and put in on her bed, looking at it thoughtfully as she took off her winter things. She wasn’t going home over the holidays, either. George’s list of Christmas celebrations was corny, but, to be honest, she was going to miss some of those things, too, and there was something sweet about George’s willingness to admit how much he longed for home. The thought of spending some holiday time with George was suddenly not uninviting. She hid the second letter with the first, under the stack of PADDs. For some reason, she didn’t want to share this with Jesse. She wanted it to be a secret, just between her and George.

A new letter arrived every day.

Dear Winona,

I had an advent calendar as a kid. It’s how I got the idea for these letters. My folks weren’t much for religion, but we all liked this advent calendar because it was so beautiful. Every day you opened a little door and you could see another person going to visit the baby Jesus, and then in last week before Christmas it was the three kings and Mary and Joseph, and then on Christmas day it was Jesus, and you could see the whole picture of the manger and all the visitors. I was always so excited to open the door and see what was behind it, even though I remembered from the last year. I hope you’re excited when you see these letters everyday.

George

 

Dear Winona,

I saw you across campus today but you were hurrying and I was too far away to say hello. I wanted to tell you that you look really nice in your winter coat, with your cheeks red from cold. It makes me want to press your face in my hands and warm you up. It makes me want to kiss you. I always want to kiss you.

George

 

Dear Winona,

I joined Starfleet because I want to be a captain someday. My own ship, my own crew. I might not be good with girls, but I’m smart and I have the confidence for command. I’ve always wanted to be a captain, as long as I can remember. My family’s really great, but sometimes I felt so trapped in Iowa. Sometimes I even feel trapped here. It all feels so small, and I want to see how big the universe really is. See other planets, other kinds of life.
I have to admit, though. This is the first Christmas I’m going to spend away from home, and it’s making me kind of sad. I think I’d like to be trapped in my parent’s living room on Christmas day.

George

And on and on. George never brought up the letters when he saw Winona. They chatted about school, and laughed at their teachers, and talked about their plans for the break. Winona was surprised that she didn’t just come right out and ask George about the letters, but she found herself too shy. She wasn’t a shy kind of girl, but there was something special about what George was doing. It was far more effort than a guy had ever put in for her before. And it was the most sincere effort. So she didn’t mention it, and neither did he.

Dear Winona,

I’d like to see you outside of school, if you want to. When I see you, you seem a little uncertain, and I’m hoping that’s a good sign. I hope these letters are making you interested. I thought we could go on a date. There’s ice skating downtown. Meet me there tomorrow at 7:00. If you don’t, I promise I won’t write you any more. You can always let me know if I’m just pestering you.

George

Winona arrived at the ice rink about five minutes late, having missed an earlier shuttle to the downtown area. George was waiting at the gate, looking painfully nervous and checking his watch. Winona couldn’t help but smile. She watched him for just a moment, standing in the bright pool of light spreading out from the ice rink, the twilight gathering around him, not touching him but casting shadows on his face. She had to admit a tiny burst of relief. He really had been sending her letters. She wasn’t being pranked: there was really someone out there as smart and sweet as George, and he wanted her.

She hurried over to him, grinning, and his face brightened visibly when he saw her.

“Sorry! I missed the shuttle.”

“That’s ok. I’m really glad you came, Winona.”

“Me too.”

They smiled at each other for a minute, stupidly.

“Are you ready?” George asked finally.

They made their way inside the gate, paid for skates, and hobbled onto the ice. The rink was strung with Christmas lights and some of the nearby trees had been decorated. Winona and George began to move slowly in the current of other skaters.

“I haven’t gone ice skating in a long time,” said Winona, watching the lights hit George’s face one by one, red then blue, green then yellow.

“Yeah, me neither. Kind of comes back to you,” said George, but at that moment he wobbled and began to fall over. Winona reached out to grab him and laughed. He balanced himself, arms stuck out at his sides, and grinned. “See? Comes right back.”

Before she could overthink it, Winona reached out her hand. George looked at it for a moment before taking it hesitantly. They smiled small, shy smiles at each other and the lights spun as they skated.

Dear Winona,

Dinner? I love Italian. I hope you do, too. Meet me at Lo Conte’s at 8:00 tonight, if you’re not too busy.

George

“My high school science teacher told me I should apply to Starfleet. It wasn’t a life-long dream for me like it was for you.” Winona took a sip of wine. A waiter came and cleared their empty plates away and George watched Winona in the low light. “But when I got here and started on the engineering track, it clicked. I’ve worked incredibly hard, and nothing is going to stop me from getting on a ship and becoming chief engineer.”

George looked at her as she took another sip, and didn’t look away when she stopped. “Is that why you haven’t dated anyone?”

Winona narrowed her eyes at him. “How do you know that?”

“Winona, you’re beautiful and at the top of our class. Don’t think people don’t talk about you and why you’re so unavailable.”

She paused for a moment, meeting George’s eyes. He was more confident around her now, not so shy. “Yes, that’s why I haven’t dated anyone.”

“What’s different about me?”

Winona smirked. “Who says I’m dating you?”

“You haven’t asked me to stop sending you letters.”

It was the first time he’d mentioned the letters in person. He seemed to realize it the moment he said it, and they were silent for a moment, an unspoken rule broken. Finally Winona said quietly, “I like your letters.”

George smiled slowly. “Want to get some dessert? There’s a place around the corner that has egg nog donuts.”

Dear Winona,

I’ve been thinking a lot about your dreams, and how you said that you didn’t want a boyfriend to get in the way. But our dreams are heading in the same direction. We’re both trying as hard as we can to shoot ourselves at the stars. Who knows where this thing between us is going, but there’s no reason it can’t go into space with us. My class doesn’t start for two days, and tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I’d like to spend it together. I hope you would, too. The mess is serving Christmas food at 6:00.

George

Winona stepped into the cadet’s mess, which had been decorated with evergreens and tacky Santa figures. She spotted George in a quiet corner, where he had already laid their table with food. He smiled as she sat down and made a grand gesture over the plates.

“I hope you don’t mind that I chose the food. I wanted it to be like I made it for you, except it was really the replicators and I don’t know how to cook.”

Winona laughed. “It all looks good to me.”

After they finished, Winona went up to get them seconds, and as she came back, George was looking down at a PADD, a holograph of his family smiling up at him.

“My mom just sent this to me,” he said, showing it to Winona. “They’re all having egg nog by the fire.”

George’s parents, grandmother, and sister were all sitting on a rug by a Christmas tree and a small fireplace. Galileo the dog was stretched out between them.

“I guess I’d better get used to being lonely on Christmas,” George said, as he tucked the PADD away. “Captains don’t get to warp back to earth just to have egg nog by the fire.”

“I have egg nog in my dorm,” said Winona. “If I can sneak it in there, I’m sure we can sneak it onto a ship.”

George gave her a long look and slowly a grin spread over his face.

“Are you willing to share some of that egg nog or it is just for you?”

Winona took a bite of sweet potato. “I’d be amenable to sharing,” she said. George dug into his second helping, his eyes bright with laughter.

 

*

When the egg nog was gone, Winona and George lay on the floor of her dorm room, looking out her skylight.

“I’m jealous of your view,” said George.

“Yeah, it makes the long elevator ride to the top floor worth it. I look at the stars sometimes when I can’t sleep. Imagine what it’s like up there.”

“I think it must be amazing. And lonely, sometimes.”

“I don’t think it has to be lonely. You just have to make a family out of your crew. You can spend Christmas with them. And I’ll smuggle that egg nog on from a starbase and, as Captain, you’ll turn a blind eye.”

George looked at her. “You want to serve on the same ship?”

“Maybe.” Winona reached out her hand and George took it.

“So listen,” he said after a while. “I did something stupid.”

Winona’s hand tensed slightly in his. “What’s that?”

“I brought mistletoe, even though that’s embarrassingly cliché.”

Winona laughed and sat up. “When it comes to Christmas, George, you’re a pretty cliché guy. I love that about you.”

George sat up, pulling a slightly crumpled bunch of mistletoe out of his pocket. He awkwardly held it up above their heads and gave Winona a sheepish, inviting smile.

Winona took a deep breath and leaned into him. Their mouths were spicy with nutmeg and clumsy with rum. Above the mistletoe the stars sparkled and winked.

Somewhere in the dorm a Christmas party started getting raucous, carols blasting and a glass shattering. Winona and George broke away and George lowered the mistletoe.

“Want to stay?” asked Winona.

 

*

In the morning, Winona found George asleep beside her. She smiled and rolled over, her ear hitting something hard. She knew what it was immediately, and sat up to draw the little card out of its envelope.

Dear Winona,

Merry Christmas.

George

 

~*~

Spock was working late in one of the science labs. He was not tired, and his current project was deeply engrossing. There was no one else in the lab and Spock understood the human need for sleep, so he was slightly surprised when a gamma-shift ensign came in.

“Um, sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Spock, but I have a letter for you.”

Spock regarded the ensign over his microscope.

“I fail to understand your meaning.”

The ensign held out a paper greeting card in a green envelope, the words “Mr. Spock” printed carefully on the front. “I was asked to deliver this to you, sir.”

Spock took the card. “By whom?”

“We found it in the cargo bay. It just showed up down there a little while ago. We’re not sure who dropped it off. Commander Barrow asked me to bring it to you.”

Spock considered the young man. He was obviously made nervous by Spock’s presence. Spock nodded. “Thank you, Ensign. Dismissed.”

The ensign hurried out the lab and Spock opened the envelope. Inside was a plain red card with a snowflake on the front. It read,

Dear Spock,

I’m in love with you.

The card was not signed. Spock suppressed a sigh. It was not the first prank to befall him since he began serving on the Enterprise. Some of the human crewmembers found him off-putting. Spock wondered if the nervous ensign had been in on the joke, or if he was an unwitting messenger. Spock put the incident from his mind and returned to his research.

When Spock returned to his quarters after his shift the following day, he was surprised to see another envelope leaning up against his door. He picked it up and considered it. This time it was not addressed. He began to open it but felt suddenly aware of his highly visible location. He glanced around, but no one else was present. Still, it would not be logical to risk a member of the crew observing him as he was being pranked. He keyed in his code and entered his quarters, removing the card from its envelope.

Dear Spock,

I realized you probably think this is a prank. It’s not. I’m just too embarrassed to tell you who I am. I’m not sure if you would be willing to fall in love with someone—it being an emotion and all—and even if you were, I’m pretty sure you’re not in love with me. So I’m not even sure why I’m doing this. So there.

Whoever he or she was, the originator of the cards did not have a terrific command of the written word. Spock shook his head and placed the card on his bookshelf. The words were typed so that the prankster could not be identified by handwriting. Spock was still fairly certain he was not the subject of a crew member’s secret affection. If he was, the letter writer was correct: he was not willing to engage in a romantic relationship with a subordinate. Spock put the letters from his mind and began to gather the candles and incense necessary to facilitate his meditation.

Ignoring the letters became increasingly difficult, however, as Spock received one every day.

Dear Spock,

This is a Christmas thing. Did you realize that? Like an advent calendar. Do you know what that is? It’s where you get a special thing for every day of December—sometimes it’s a calendar with a pocket for each day that has candy or a little present or something in it. Sometimes you open a door every day to reveal more and more of a big picture. My dad had one like that when he was a kid. It was a picture of the nativity (I’m assuming you know the Christian nativity story) and every day you opened a door to reveal someone who was going to see Jesus in the manger. On Christmas, you opened a door to see the baby. That’s what I’m doing. Giving you a letter every day. I’m pretty sure you don’t even celebrate Christmas, though. So sorry if you’re just offended or something. I’m not going to stop, though.

 

Dear Spock,

You’re an annoying bastard. Did anyone ever tell you that? Sometimes you make me really, really, REALLY mad. You made me really mad today about a work thing, but I don’t think you noticed. And it makes me mad how much I love you, because sometimes I can’t focus on work. And it makes me mad that you’ll never love me back.

 

Dear Spock,

I wonder if you celebrated Christmas with your mom as a kid. I hope you did. Christmas is great. Well, I didn’t really love Christmas as a kid. I had kind of a lonely childhood. But I love it now. All the decorations and the music and stuff. I really like it. As long as you can be with your friends it’s really fun. I hope you’ll party with the senior crew this year and not be alone on Christmas. I hope maybe we can spend it together.

 

Dear Spock,

Here are the reasons I love you:

You’re a genius, and I love talking to you. Your mind is incredible.
You’re super snarky, even though you pretend it’s just you being emotionless.
You’re funny. No one knows that but me.
You’re kind, even though you would never admit it.
Your logic makes you a better officer, and it balances out us emotional humans.
You’re fucking hot.
You’re loyal.
You know way more about humans than you admit, and you like making us uncomfortable. Don’t think I don’t know that.

I could keep going. I guess I love pretty much everything about you.

Spock began to doubt that the letters were a prank. The emotions seemed genuine, and awkward, as if the individual felt uncomfortable expressing his feelings to Spock, as humans often did with matters of a romantic or sexual nature. Spock felt a distinct disquiet about the letters: this was affection that he could not return. Every once in a while, the letter writer would say something that made hope flare in Spock’s chest, but he quickly extinguished it. He calculated the odds that Jim was writing the letters at less than 12.7 percent. Although he had indeed made the Captain angry on the same day he received the letter about how much of an “annoying bastard” he was, he also knew that it was unlikely for Jim to know about his father’s Christmas traditions. Thus the letter about the advent calendar canceled out the one about how angry Spock seemed to make his admirer.

As December progressed and more letters arrived, the quality of the writing began to improve, as if the writer was getting over his embarrassment as he became acclimated to expressing himself on paper. Spock began to suspect that the individual was not, after all, unintelligent, although he was perhaps not the most expressive of individuals when it came to matters of the heart. Spock was almost certain that the writer was a male, based on that fact.

Dear Spock,

Why do have to be so sexy? I have work to do, you know. Could you, I don’t know, SIT DOWN when you look in that scanner? Are you trying to shove your ass in my face? You have no idea how much I want to fuck you. Sometimes I stare at you and wonder how big your cock is and I imagine how green it must get when you’re hard. I think that’s crazy hot. Also, your ears. You should stop having such sexy ears.

Spock put down the card, blushing furiously, much to his dismay. Blushing was such a clear sign of emotion. Why did he have to be plagued with it?
The erotic letter took him by surprise. The individual in question was almost certainly a highly sexualized person, if he was indulging in such intimate fantasies on the bridge. He also worked on the bridge with Spock, where the scanner was located. He was also most illogical. Spock put the letter with the others with unnecessary speed and decided to meditate immediately. Hope was a dangerous emotion. It was better to merely accept events as they occurred.

Dear Spock,

I never wanted to go into space. My parents did the space thing. I wanted to get out of my hometown like you wouldn’t believe, but never into space. But now that I’m here, I really think it’s where I belong. I love the vastness, the emptiness, the pinpricks of life and light. It’s got all the logic of physics and all the chaos of life. It’s kind of like us, don’t you think? Logic and chaos.

 

Dear Spock,

I’d love to go somewhere snowy with you on Christmas. I know you’d be cold but we could find you thermal wear. I could show you how to build a snowman and I would probably throw a snowball at you when you weren’t looking and you would probably get mad. But then maybe you’d get into it and throw one back, but since you’re so strong it would bruise me and you would be riddled with guilt and carry me back to our cabin (I think we’d be staying in a cabin). Then you would slowly undress me by the fire and kiss my bruise until it turned into sex. We’d be on a bearskin rug (a fake one, obviously). That’s just a fantasy I had on the bridge today. Thought I would share it with you.

 

Dear Spock,

I realize these letters probably just make you mad, especially because you don’t know who to be mad at. You can just ignore them, if you’re not already, and I promise they’ll stop after Christmas.

 

Dear Spock,

Here are some things you might not know about me. There’s probably no point to this, since getting to know me better isn’t going to make you think loving me is logical, but here I go anyway:

I hate fudge.
I love sex (okay, you knew that one), but I’ve never been in love before you.
I love old-fashioned books.
When I was at the academy, a friend and I took a crazy vacation to Risa and I had to bribe a police officer not to arrest me so I wouldn’t get kicked out of Starfleet.
I’m into both men and women, and anything in between. I’ll fuck any being that’s into me. I’m very open-minded. But if you wanted monogamy, I could give you that. But if you didn’t want to be monogamous, I wouldn’t care.
I’m allergic to parrots. Just parrots, not any other bird.
I like slow dancing.
I hate salads.

 

Dear Spock,

I promise I am not the person who served you hot chocolate on purpose. I would never, EVER, do that to you, and I will find whoever did it and kick them off the fucking ship. Okay, maybe not. But an official dressing down, for sure.
But just so you know, you’re an adorable drunk. I hope your hangover’s not too bad.

Spock curled up in his bed and, surrendering to emotionalism, put a pillow over his aching head. Despite the fact the he felt ill and angry, he could not ignore the shining, illogical hope that was blooming in his mind, that he could no longer suppress. He was fixated on the letter-writer’s threat to find the perpetrator of Spock’s current discomfort and transfer him from the ship. No one but Jim had the authority to perform such an action. Was it possible that Jim had let his cover slip? Underneath the pillow, Spock began to smile. There was no one around to see, so he did not stop himself.

Dear Spock,

So I got this whole letter idea from my parents. My dad did it for my mom, then they spent Christmas Eve together and fell in love, and isn’t it great that they did, because what would the universe do without me, huh? Anyway, if you’re still reading these letters, and you’re at all interested, I’d like to spend Christmas Eve with you. I’ll be at the Christmas Eve party tonight. I’ll be standing by the tree at exactly 8:30 and I will be wearing a ridiculous sweater with three deers on it. Probably everyone will have a ridiculous sweater on, but mine has a blue glittery collar and the deer have blue glittery antlers, and also two of them have hot pink wings. It’s a red sweater. Also, I hope you already know who I am. Since this might be my last chance to say it ever, just know that I love you.

Spock arrived at the Christmas party at 7:00. He usually avoided crew parties; the officers had a tendency to drink alcohol to excess and dance inexpertly to loud music, and Spock found it disorienting and disturbing. Though the crew was surprised to see him, they welcomed him. He drank a hot spiced cider with Uhura, which was a pleasant experience, and discussed his most recent scientific paper with Lieutenant Dobbs, a particularly intelligent member of his staff. Scotty offered him a Scottish Christmas pastry of his own making, which Spock found agreeable. Spock was surprised to discover that he was almost enjoying himself, but then he would remember why he was attending this particular party, and he would be beset by a most illogical sensation of anxiety. The Captain was nowhere to be seen.

At 8:27, Spock secured a seat in the corner from which he could observe the large Christmas tree located centrally in the rec room. He had never understood the human idiom concerning butterflies in the stomach, but he suspected he may have solved that puzzle now. A fluttering apprehension was detectable in his abdominal region, and he felt his stomach lurch painfully when the Captain entered the rec room 17 seconds after 8:29.

Meeting eyes with no one, Jim walked directly to the Christmas tree and stood stiffly in front of it. He was indeed wearing a red sweater with a glittery blue collar and the appropriate garish decorations. His jaw was visibly tight with nerves.

For a long moment, Spock experienced the sensation of being paralyzed. The love letters really had come from the Captain. Spock rose from his seat and approached the Christmas tree. Jim caught sight of him out of the corner of his eye and turned in his direction, carefully keeping his face expressionless. Spock reached him and stood at parade rest. For several moments they stared at each other.

“Hey, Spock.”

“Greetings, Captain.”

“So, did you get my letters?”

“Indeed, Captain. That is why I have come to meet at the location you indicated.”

“Right. Did you know it was me?”

“I estimated an 84.3 percent change that you were the originator, but I only reached that calculation two days ago. Before that point you were successful at concealing your identity.”

Jim nodded and silence fell between them. Jim rubbed the back of his neck.

“So, you’re supposed to, like, respond and stuff.”

“Respond? You have not made a query, Captain.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “No, I mean—respond to what I said in the letters. Accept me or reject me.”

“It would take quite a while for me to respond to every point in your letters, Captain, but if you are implying that I should express my willingness to enter into a romantic relationship with you, then allow me to do so.”

Jim stared at him. “Wait, so are you saying yes? I mean, are you saying we can be together?”

“I am saying, Captain, that I return your affections and I would like to explore them in a physical romantic relationship.”

A slow, uncertain smile spread on Jim’s face. Before he could stop himself, Spock leaned forward and gave Jim a chaste and lightning-fast kiss. Jim’s eyes went wide and his mouth fell open at an exaggerated angle. Reminded that they were, in fact, exposed before most of their crew, Spock glanced around. Several crewmembers were watching them and smiling, but no one looked scandalized. Curious.

Spock felt Jim’s hand slip into his and he looked back into the Captain’s face. His eyes were bright and laughing, such a strikingly electric blue.

“Why, Mr. Spock. What happened to Vulcan propriety?”

“I am in what you might call a festive mood, Captain. I believe at Christmas one is allowed to behave outside of one’s normal parameters, is that not correct?”

Jim grinned. “It sure is, Mr. Spock.”

At that moment, Scotty came bustling toward them, drink in hand, and whispered quite loudly to Jim, “Do you need me to get the mistletoe, Cap’n? I have it ready!”

“No, Scotty,” Jim stage whispered back, “We can strike Plan B.”

“Oh, aye,” said Scotty, nodding sagely and regarding them with bleary eyes. “I’ll leave ye alone, then, ye wicked creatures.”

Spock regarded Jim as Scotty stumbled away. “You enlisted the help of your chief engineer to attempt to win my affection?”

Jim shrugged, “In case, you know, the letters didn’t work, or you were mad about them or something.”

“On the contrary. Your letters were most successful.”

Jim squeezed his hand. “How much chocolate would I have to give you to be successful at getting you to dance with me?”

“Captain, we are attending an event at which most of our crew is present.”

“Spock, you just kissed me.”

Jim leaned slightly closer to Spock, until they were almost touching. “And you said that Christmas is the time to act crazy. So let’s do it.”

At that moment a slow carol came over the room’s speakers, as if someone had been eavesdropping on their conversation, which, Spock realized, they probably were. Jim gently pulled Spock toward the other couples who were beginning to dance, and Spock allowed himself to be maneuvered. Jim tucked his arms around Spock’s neck and Spock, who had never danced with anyone in his life, awkwardly took Jim’s hips in his hands. But as Jim led him in a simple swaying motion, the awkwardness faded away. Holding Jim felt utterly natural, as if it was an action he had been meaning to perform his entire life, something on the edge of his mind that he had only just now remembered to do.

Jim leaned toward Spock and whispered in his ear, “Are you really sure about this, Spock? About me?”

Spock forced himself to forget the crew, and tugged Jim’s body closer to his own. “Quite sure. Would this be an appropriate time to wish you a Merry Christmas, Captain?”

Kirk’s small smile burst into a brilliant grin, a flash of sunlight in the dark heart of space.

“Very appropriate. Merry Christmas, Mr. Spock.”

 

*

On Christmas morning, Winona’s alarm woke her an hour before she was due in engineering. She yawned and rubbed her eyes for a while, trying to click her brain into work mode so that it wouldn’t start spiraling around George. As she sat up, she noticed a paper envelope on her pillow and her heart leapt, shock filling her chest as if she had seen a ghost. But when she noticed the handwritten “Mom,” on the envelope, she began to smile.

Dear Mom,

So I wrote Spock a letter every day this month. Guess what? It worked. Merry Christmas, Mom.

Jim