"Something wrong, Spock?" Kirk asked, trying not to smile at the almost-frown on his First Officer’s face. He moved his rook, taking out one of Spock’s pawns and clearing the way to his king. "Check."
"Not as such," Spock said and put down his teacup. His gaze swept over the chessboard and Kirk shivered a little from the intensity of it, even though that gaze was not directed at him. Nor would it ever be for that matter. "My mind is merely elsewhere."
Spock moved a pawn, granting his king sanctuary for now. "It is adequate. In fact, it reminds me of a Vulcan tea I used to favor."
"Really?" Kirk was kind of shocked to hear Spock express a preference for anything. "Can I taste it?"
Spock inclined his head and Kirk grasped the cup carefully and took a small sip. It took every ounce of his self-control not to spit it right out again.
"God, that’s awful."
Spock looked amused, despite not moving a muscle on his face. "It is, of course, displeasing to the human palate."
"Displeasing, sure," Kirk said, fighting the urge to try and rub the taste off his tongue. "I’m gonna grab a cup of coffee. I can’t believe you let me drink this."
"My apologies, Captain."
Kirk stood up and headed for the replicator. "When we’re off duty, it´s Jim. And I will not forget this!"
And he didn’t. Several months later it was nearing Christmas, and Kirk found himself in a dilemma. Last year, on the first Christmas since the Nero disaster, Kirk had gotten Spock a Christmas present. Since he’d had no idea what to get, he’d just fallen back on his default present: novelty underwear. The less said about that particular Christmas, the better. But since then they had grown much closer, and this year he had been determined to find Spock a decent Christmas present. After all they were friends. Best friends even. Of course he wanted Spock to have a happy holiday.
God, he was pathetic.
The problem hadn’t been finding Spock a present. Sure, it had taken a few weeks of scouting and some frantic coms to the old bastard, formerly known as Ambassador Spock (who had earned his new name by being insufferably smug and knowing about the whole situation, though he’d never really showed it. Kirk could tell when he was being laughed at). Vulcan-everything was very hard to find, but especially so, if it was made from native Vulcan plants like this particular type of tea. Especially-especially so when Kirk didn’t even know the product’s name, and that was where the old bastard had first stepped in. Kirk had eventually found it, and ordered two packs, one for Spock and one for the old bastard, who had after all been immensely helpful, especially in trying out the product to confirm its validity (as if Kirk was ever letting something so disgusting past his lips again).
No, the problem wasn’t finding the present, not really. The problem was that now Kirk couldn’t possibly give it to Spock without revealing his massive, pathetic crush on the Vulcan. Spock would ask how he had known what to get, and where he had gotten it and then he would know how much effort and money Kirk put into it, because he could never lie to Spock. And then it would all be over, Spock would be disgusted by his inappropriate emotions and become distant again and then he would transfer because things between them would become so awkward and Kirk would be heartbroken and drown his sorrows, first in booze and then in an endless string of meaningless flings and he would eventually either die from alcohol poisoning or an STD, or settle down and marry Keenser because he just couldn’t stand the loneliness. And Kirk didn’t want to marry Keenser, because he really wasn’t his type.
Aside from the green, of course.
Bottom line, Kirk would have to find something less perfect to give to Spock. In the three days before Christmas.
Onboard a Starship.
He’d need some help.
His first choice was Uhura, who, despite having broken up with Spock almost a year prior, knew him better than anybody. Aside from Kirk, of course.
"You’re seriously just thinking about this now, three days in advance?" Uhura asked, irritated. She had her own holiday rush to deal with, she did not need her Captain adding to the stress.
"Of course not," Kirk said. "I just... look, I’m really desperate. Can you help me or not?"
Uhura frowned. "Well, I guess something practical would be the best bet. Get him socks or something."
Socks. How romantic.
Kirk mentally shook himself. It wasn’t supposed to be romantic, in fact it was supposed to be decidedly unromantic, that was the whole point of not giving Spock the stupid tea. "Sure, socks, that’s fine."
"Though I don’t think you can order them with such short notice," Uhura said with a frown. "There’s always the replicator."
"How cheap to you think I am?"
Uhura smiled ruefully. "That’s what you get for not thinking in advance. Sorry I can’t be of more help."
Kirk waved his hand. "It’s okay. I’ll figure something out."
"Try asking Gaila," Uhura suggested. "She's always been really good with presents, and she did know Spock back at the academy... briefly."
Kirk decided he didn't want to know.
Kirk sighed. "I don't think Spock much likes animals."
"But everybody likes tribbles!" Gaila protested. "Except Klingons, of course, but the last time I checked, Spock didn't have ridges on his forehead."
"I'm not getting him a tribble."
"Fine, be that way. How about clothing?"
"Uhura already suggested that."
“No! Why would you--”
‘Oh, disturbing mental images. Or disturbingly non-disturbing… no, shut up brain!’
Gaila frowned. "Well, I don't know what else you could get him on such short notice. Maybe you should talk to Leonard. He spends a lot of time with Spock."
Kirk laughed. "When has Bones ever willingly spent time with Spock?"
"Well, when you were in that coma for three days after the Klingon encounter they spent a lot of time together by your bed," Gaila said. "And also when you got that bullet wound on Rigel III. And when you broke both your legs in a freak accident in Engineering. Sorry about that, by the way. And when you-"
"Right," Kirk cut her off. "But have they ever bonded over anything aside from my injuries?"
"Just try him. You might be pleasantly surprised."
"Damn it Jim, I'm busy. Come back if you get a concussion or something. Besides, I'm a doctor, not a shopping assistant."
Well, that went well.
Kirk briefly considered calling the old bastard, but disregarded the idea almost immediately. This whole mess was embarrassing enough without his further inclusion. But who else knew Spock well enough?
At that moment, Chekov passed him in the hallway with a cheery "Morning, Keptin!" Kirk grinned.
The ensign stopped and turned, smiling curiously. The kid was always eager to help, especially Spock, whom he idolized. Maybe he could think of something.
"I need some help," Kirk said. "I have no idea what to get Spock for Christmas. Any suggestions?"
Chekov frowned thoughtfully. "Vell, you could bake somezing."
"I don't know how to bake."
"How about knitting?"
Kirk rubbed his forehead. This was a mistake. "No, not either. And aren't those kind of presents awfully... personal?"
"Da," Chekov said. "But I vould zink that you vanted to give him somezing personal?"
"No, I mean... personal."
Chekov stared at him blankly. "I am not following."
"Romantic," Kirk ground out. "Those kind of presents are awfully romantic."
"That is the point, no?"
It was Kirk's turn to stare.
"If you cannot cook or knit you can ask Hikaru," Chekov supplied helpfully. "He taught me to knit so I could get Irina a scarf for Christmas." His eyes widened. "But do not tell her! It is a surprise."
Kirk nodded warily. "I won't. Thanks for the help."
Chekov smiled proudly and walked off, whistling a Christmas carol. Kirk just barely suppressed the urge to smack him on the back of the head.
He did go to Sulu, but not because Chekov suggested it.
"You're a little late, don't you think?" Sulu said, amused.
Kirk ground his teeth. "I am aware of that. Do you have any ideas or not?"
"I have some interesting plant specimens," Sulu suggested. "Some of them are really rare, I'm sure Spock would love to get his hands on them. Well," he amended. "He'd appreciate it."
Kirk nodded, relief flooding through him. "That could work." And just in time, too.
"Let's go to my quarters and find something suitable." Sulu grinned. "And Kirk? You owe me one."
Kirk smiled. "You don't know the half of it."
It was the day before Christmas, and the bridge crew, plus Bones and Scotty, had reserved a conference room for a traditional family meal, since tomorrow they would all be on duty (it wasn't as if Kirk hadn't tried to get them to take vacation, but they refused to let him work alone and he was kind of too sappy to protest). In the corner was a small Christmas tree, which Chekov, Sulu and Scotty had decorated with some old-fashioned ornaments Scotty had somehow replicated, and underneath was a small heap of presents to be opened after dinner.
Kirk was in his quarters getting ready and finishing up on the presents, when someone knocked on the door.
"Come in," Kirk called, expecting Bones to come barging in to hurry him along.
He was surprised when his personal yeoman (Rand something) entered instead, her hands behind her back and biting her lip nervously.
"Captain," she said curtly.
Kirk smiled, hoping to put her at ease. "We're off duty, you know. You can call me Jim."
Rand blushed and ducked her head. For a few moments neither of them spoke, and finally Kirk took mercy on the girl. "Did you want anything?"
"I..." the yeoman looked up and made an admirable attempt to look Kirk in the eye, before diverting her gaze to his left shoulder instead. "I just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas, and... and thank you for everything. I know I haven't been your yeoman for long, but I was really nervous when I came here first." She laughed. "I still am sometimes, but you've been really nice and understanding and I appreciate it."
Kirk melted, just a little bit. "You don't have to-"
"I got you this," Rand blurted out and thrust her hands forward. She was holding a small present wrapped in golden gift-wrapping. "It's just a little something to express my gratitude."
Kirk took the offered gift and smiled. "Thank you... Janice." Judging by the bright smile on Rand's face, he'd gotten it right. "It's been my pleasure, you really have been a great help for the past few months. And..."
He glanced around his quarters and his eyes fell on the presents sitting on his desk. No extra package... but he did have something in his bottom desk drawer... he couldn't give it to Janice, but if he gave her the Algerian vine then Spock could have the tea.
Without really thinking about it, Kirk reached for the potted plant on his desk and discreetly removed the card. He handed it to Janice, who blushed again and stuttered her thanks.
"Think nothing of it," Kirk said, trying to ignore the sudden heavy feeling in his stomach. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, sir." She lurched forward and hugged him in one movement, then jumped away, eyes wide, as if she couldn't believe what she had just done. She practically ran out of the quarters, leaving Kirk behind to stare after her in horror.
He had given her Spock's present.
He had given her the goddamn plant. How could he have been so stupid? Couldn't he have thought ahead, for once in his life? It wasn't as if Rand had been expecting anything in return, she was clearly surprised when he handed her the vine.
Now he had nothing to give Spock except that damn tea. He sure as hell couldn't give him nothing, because Spock was his best friend. But he couldn't give him the tea either, because Spock was his best friend.
There was a loud knock on the door. "You in there, Jim?"
Kirk swallowed. "Yeah. I'll be right there."
He heard Bones walk away and tried to get his hammering heart under control.
So what if he only had the tea? He'd just have to give it to Spock. It couldn't be that bad, could it? It was just some tea, very expensive tea, sure, but still... there wasn't anything romantic about it. He could just be showing his appreciation for his First Officer.
With that in mind, Kirk opened the bottom drawer of his desk and picked up the small wooden box containing the tea. With slightly shaky hands he fetched a gift bag and stuffed the box in, along with the card. He grabbed the rest of the presents and headed for conference room B, trying to fight off images of himself sitting alone by a bar, Bones trying desperately to cure him off some unknown Orion STD and, perhaps most disturbingly, Keenser in a wedding dress.
When he finally reached his destination Kirk was sweating and feeling slightly nauseous, but he plastered on a fake smile and entered the room with his usual confident swagger.
Dinner was pure torture. Never mind that everyone else was enjoying themselves, that the food was delicious, that Bones was actually borderline cheery and that Spock was actually smiling a little, if you squinted and turned your head sideways. All that was insignificant compared to the fact that in just a couple of short hours, Kirk’s biggest secret would be found out (not that there weren’t a few people who had somehow figured it out already, but none of those people were his First Officer).
He barely got through the main course, but by the time desert was served he was far too nervous to stomach anything.
“Are you well?” Spock asked quietly. Kirk met his eyes from across the table and he blushed a little (not really though, because Starship Captains don’t blush) at the intense gaze now directed at him. Kirk remembered longing for that gaze to be pointed at him for months (except not longing, because, again, he was a Starship Captain, not a teenage girl), but now it just made him feel uncomfortably bare.
He smiled weakly. “I’m fine.”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “Fine has variable definitions.”
“I’m happy,” Kirk amended. “I was just deep in thought, that’s all.”
Spock stared at him a little longer and Kirk might have squirmed, not that he would ever admit it.
“Time for presents!” Uhura announced, pulling Kirk from Spock’s gaze. Scotty and Chekov cheered and the seven of them gathered around the small Christmas tree, sitting on soft cushions on the floor. Spock being, of course, the only one who managed to make it look even slightly dignified. Kirk lounged next to him, his whole being keenly aware of Spock’s hand, resting inches from his own. He forced himself to pay attention to Sulu, who was picking the first present to open.
The gift opening was, if at all possible, even more excruciating than dinner. Sulu and Chekov took turns, picking presents and reading off the cards, one gift at a time. The evening stretched on and the pile underneath the tree got steadily smaller, but Kirk’s eyes were glued to Spock’s present the entire time.
Finally, Sulu reached for it and Kirk’s body seized up. His fight or flight response was screaming for him to grab the gift bag and run, but fortunately there was a small part of his mind that remembered he still had to work with these people and that running off would probably only make things worse in the long term.
“From Jim, to… Spock,” Sulu read, and frowned in confusion, probably wondering how the hell Kirk had fitted an Algerian vine in the gift bag.
Spock reached for the present, his face impassive. He opened the bag carefully and peered inside. He blinked.
“What ees it?” Chekov asked curiously.
Spock picked up the box and glanced at Kirk, before cracking it open. Every human in the room gagged.
“Oh God,” McCoy coughed. “Jim, what the hell did you give him and why is it dead?”
Spock shut the box again. “It is wh’ltri tei.”
Uhura was apparently the only person present who understood that, aside from Spock, because she gaped at Kirk. “That’s a Vulcan tea. Where did you get this, Jim?”
Kirk scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, suddenly very interested in his lap. “Um…”
“I mentioned my preference for it to you, 6.4 months ago,” Spock stated quietly, staring at Kirk with an unreadable expression. “I did not tell you its name.”
“I have sources,” Kirk mumbled and now he definitely was blushing, Starship Captain or no.
“This must have taken ages to find,” Uhura said. “Not to mention how expensive it must have been.”
“I am aware of that,” Kirk muttered and ground his teeth.
Uhura’s mouth formed into an understanding ‘oh’. Sulu, however, did not seem to have caught on.
“But if you had this, then why did you come to me for he-” Chekov quickly covered the helmsman’s mouth with his hand.
Kirk risked a short glance up at Spock, who had been quiet for a scarily long time. “It’s not that big a deal,” he said. “If you don’t like it, I can return it.”
Spock didn’t answer and Kirk raised his head, morbidly curious despite himself. “Spock?”
Spock’s hand reached for Kirk and he almost flinched away, half-expecting to be strangled, but instead Spock’s hand came to rest on the back of his neck. “What are you-”
And then he was being kissed.
Kirk’s eyes widened only for one moment, before he closed them and returned the kiss enthusiastically. It was somehow exactly what he had been expecting, and nothing like he could have imagined. Spock’s lips were soft and warm under his own, and Spock’s hand was like a brand on the back of his neck, hot, heavy and perfect.
There was the briefest flicker of tongue, and then Spock was pulling away.
No one spoke.
“So… I take it you like it?” Kirk said dazedly.
“Indeed,” Spock replied, his gaze still locked with Kirk’s. “It is most satisfactory. Thank you, Jim.”
“Next gift?” Chekov suggested, and the spell was broken. Kirk ducked his head, fighting off another blush. He’d completely forgotten they weren’t alone in the room and judging by the light green shade of Spock’s ears, so had he.
The evening passed without incident after that and no one talked about Spock’s lapse in Vulcan propriety (though Bones looked like he really wanted to).
And if Spock’s hand had, by the end of the night, somehow moved from laying next to Kirk’s, to resting on top of it, well, no one mentioned that either.