DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of T'Kuht and is copyright (c) 2001 by T'Kuht. This story is Rated PG-13.



Christmas Crackers

T'Kuht



"What did Spock want?" Uhura asked as Christine Chapel settled back into her seat. She'd been in the middle of her breakfast when she'd been paged.

"Oh, those dumb reports that McCoy is still trying to get through. I told him that I submitted the forms that I was required to do, and it's McCoy's section that he needs to get hold of. That man is so..." She sighed as she dug into her now cold eggs.

"Annoyingly logical?" Uhura finished. She'd noticed lately that Chapel had seemed to be over her Spock fixation, and in fact, she seemed to be thoroughly put out with him.

"Worse than that. He's just simply anal-retentive. These reports are not that pressing nor are they even necessary to the experiment that he is submitting them for. It doesn't matter. I get myself too worked up over this stuff. I think I need a vacation," she sighed and ran a hand through her now short brown hair.

"I think you need a diversion. You spend all day cooped up in that sickbay or in one of the labs. Why don't you take the day off instead of going in for extra duty and just relax by the pool or something? You can fill out your Dear Santa letter."

"I am not filling out the dumb thing. Whoever heard of grown men and women submitting letters to Santa Claus?"

"Well, it's a lark. It's also a way to use up that excess money in the ship's recreation fund that we have."

"Huh?"

"Didn't you know? The computer will choose one item off the lists that are submitted as appropriate for the crewmember. So, everyone ends up with something," the communications officer informed her.

"Huh, well I guess I can come up with something," Chapel decided and began to think.

* * *

The pool's reflective surface nearly blinded her. Christine decided to take her friend's advice and not report for volunteer duty and donned her favorite swimsuit. With a satisfied groan, she settled against the bubbling jets of the Jacuzzi and allowed her head to rest against the decking. Her body began to just drift in the warmth and she was lost her thoughts in the moment. She was nearly somewhere else completely when the intercom brought her out of her reverie, "Nurse Chapel report to lab #5."

The short terse statement and the location indicated that something was amiss with one of the experiments that she was supervising. Completely submersing herself in the water, bubbles rose up to indicate the swear words she was letting loose. Pulling herself up out of the pool, she grabbed the towel, and sopped up as much of the water as she could before heading out the door.

* * *

Lab #5 was one of the smaller labs, set up for strictly long term experiments. Spock tapped the side of the beaker and jotted down what he saw on the data padd. There should not have been any sediment but there was. Obviously, something had either gone wrong with the process or the ingredients had been contaminated. He could hear the door slide open. "Have you checked this experiment today?"

"No, why?" she asked and appeared beside him. He handed her the beaker before he realized she was dripping wet. His gaze traveled down her barely dressed frame. She had obviously been in the pool. He had not considered that she might be doing something leisurely when he called. "Mr. Spock, there is nothing wrong with this."

"There should not be sediment in this beaker."

"Yes, there should. If you consult the notes, you will see that I went forward with step 8 last evening before I went to bed. I had done that so that I would not have to come in today to mess with it," she said with a rather loudly annoyed sigh. Spock allowed one eyebrow to elevate to his bangs.

"I did not see that in the notes."

With a flourish she tossed the towel over her shoulder and called up the log entries for the experiment. The last one was step 7. She remembered specifically logging step 8, but it was not listed as having been completed on the form. She bit her lip a moment. "I'm sorry Mr. Spock. Apparently I did not enter them correctly. I was in a hurry. Other than this, is there anything else?"

Spock shook his head. "No, I regret calling you away from your relaxation. The question could have waited."

"Well, since I'm already here, would you like to go on with step 9, or do you trust me to do it later?"

"You may do it," Spock answered quickly. He had never challenged any of her experiments. He had never had reason to do so. After logging step 8 in the computer, she wrapped the towel around her waist and turned back to him. "If you will excuse me."

"Of course." He watched her leave, noticing that out of uniform she was quite shapely. With a slight jerk of the head, he returned his focus to the task at hand.

* * *

"Computer, messages?" Christine asked as she began peeling the wet swimsuit off. After she'd left Spock in lab #5, she'd gone back to the pool for another hour. She was so wrinkled now that she could have passed for a prune. Tossing the suit into the replicator chute, she pulled her robe out of the wardrobe. The poor thing was nearly threadbare it was so old, and she needed a new one.

"You have not filled out your Santa request yet. Would you like to do so now?" the computer intoned.

She thought a second, looked down at the robe, and shrugged, why not? "Yes, computer, I'd like a purple chenille bathrobe for Christmas, size large and roomy. I want it to have a belt and no buttons or zippers, two pockets, and have it come down to my knees. Is that specific enough for you?"

"Yes, are there any other requests? You are allowed up to five?"

"Oh, let's see. A nice big box of chocolates, nothing fancy, just some plain chocolate. Make it about five kilos worth. I guess that's all. Record and submit," she said and got ready to take a shower.

The computer relayed the information, replied, "Submitted request for one purple chenille bathrobe."

"What about the chocolate?" she asked a little annoyed.

"Your medical charts indicate that eating five kilos of chocolate would be ill-advised."

"Oh forget it," she grumbled and went in to wash her hair.

* * *

"So, what did you pick?" Uhura asked once again as they stared at each other across the breakfast table.

"A purple bathrobe to replace the one I have. You know that thing is almost 20 years old. I guess it's time to get a new one."

"And?"

"I asked for a box of chocolates, but the computer reminded me that I'm fat and don't need the chocolate."

"Girl, you are not fat. There is not one ounce of extra weight on you," the communications officer insisted.

"Well, the computer obviously thinks so. I couldn't think of anything else. What did you ask for?" the nurse asked as she stirred more sugar into her tea. It had been said that she drank tea with her sugar.

Uhura drank down the coffee. "Oh, some earrings, a new music discography. I couldn't really think of anything. You know, when someone else gets it for you, it is so much nicer than picking something out."

"It is just strange, that's all. You know, I wonder what Spock picked for Christmas?" the nurse mused with a chuckle.

"I thought you were over him?" Nyota asked with a wary look.

"Why is it that I can't even mention him without people 'assuming' that I am in love with him? Cripes, he's spent the better part of the last three years avoiding me. I'm not dumb you know," she protested.

Uhura softened, "I didn't mean it that way. In fact, if you are over him I'm happy. You deserve so much more than I think he can give you. Spock is a good man. I love him like a brother, but he is so complicated. I don't know if any woman could ever make him happy or even halfway contented."

Christine stopped stirring. "He liked that Romulan Commander well enough."

"Honey," Uhura said and grabbed the nurse's hands, "she is at least Vulcanoid. Spock wants to be all Vulcan. He bends over backwards to be more controlled than any of the others. It's only natural that he would pick a woman who can more readily embrace that ideal. You are human. You laugh and smile. You cry and get angry. You need someone who will give you what you give to them."

Christine sat listening to Uhura knowing that her friend was right. It just wasn't any easier to know what the truth was when dealing with matters of the heart. In fact, it was a little more difficult. The devil arrived just as the two women finished speaking about him. He walked over to the two ladies after procuring a mug of the herbal tea that he preferred. The other tables were all full. "May I join you?"

Uhura nodded, watched Christine's reaction as he slid into the booth. It was not one of a woman who was over someone. She didn't moon over him like she sometimes did. This was a miserable look as if she'd just been told she was going to have dental work done without the aid of anesthesia.

Spock apparently wished to spend time with people. He rarely 'mingled' as it were, but there were times that he did try to become more like humans. He usually brought his lyre, but it was not with him today. Uhura noticed it. "Where's your lyre?"

"I have to have it repaired. During the last attacks, it was damaged when it flew off the stand and hit the floor," he said.

"Maybe you should ask for one for Christmas," Christine tried as she sunk further into the booth seat to allow Spock to look past her to Uhura.

"A replica would be of ill-use. Vulcan lyres are temperamental instruments. It is not usually possible to simply swap them when one is damaged. The entire tone and texture of the instrument is different," Spock replied a bit smugly.

"You mean like a well used and aged violin or piano," Christine said. Now that she was determined to just view him as a regular member of the crew, she could see that he was as boring as muck. She had been raised to be a polite person so she didn't yawn no matter how badly she wanted to. Spock related more information that simply restated what she had just said. He was about to ask her if she'd continued with the next section of steps in the experiment they were working on when she stopped him. "Thank you for reminding me. I do need to go, Uhura if you could let me out please."

Nyota moved out of the booth, hissed in Chapel's ear, "Chris."

"I'll make sure to let you know about the experiment," Christine smiled at her superior officer and turned to go. Spock watched her leave until his head could no longer turn that far. Uhura caught that. "Mr. Spock, you are a devil."

"I beg your pardon?" he asked completely lost. He had been teased about the fact that his ears made him resemble many of the Earth forms of the devil or Satan, but Uhura had never said that to him.

"You, you like to watch her walk, don't you? In fact, if I do recall, you liked to watch Janice Rand, too. Do you watch me?" she asked. Curiosity dripped off her like honey.

Spock straightened. He was not aware that he had been observed. Yes, he did watch women walk. He always had. He assumed that it was a natural thing for people to do. Perhaps he was wrong. "I am not certain I understand your statement."

With a catlike stance, she leaned in closer to him over the table and grinned. "Yes, you do. You, your eyeballs, watched Christine as she walked away from you. Don't tell me you designed this horrific excuse for a uniform?"

"No, I did not. In fact I did lodge a complaint about them when they were first issued. It is in the records. I believe that the older style of pants and tunics were more suitable to the business of running a starship than short skirts and leotards."

"They are tights, but that's not the point. You watch Christine walk. What do you like most, the short skirt or the long legs?" the communications officer teased. Her teasing was becoming tantamount to outright insubordination.

Spock sat against the vinyl padding of the booth. With Jim or McCoy he could toss an, "I am Vulcan, that is illogical" statement at them, and they'd harrumph and snort and let it drop. With Miss Uhura, he was trapped. He either told the truth or put her in the brig. Her expertise was too invaluable to put her in the brig. "She has the longest legs I believe I have ever seen."

Uhura would have crowed in absolute victory if it weren't for the amount of people in the rec room. "So, you admit that you do watch Christine because she has long legs. What else do you watch on her?"

Shifting a little in the booth, he decided that spilling the whole pot of beans to this woman was better than being hounded with questions throughout the rest of the tour. "I have always found Miss Chapel attractive, in more ways than physically. She has a passion and talent for science that I have rarely seen equaled. She also has the bluest eyes that I can recall."

"Bluer than your mother's?" Uhura asked. When she met Amanda and saw Christine and the Vulcan's mother interact, she had a clue as to why Spock seemed to always be just at arm's distance with Chapel. She reminded Spock of his mother. He really needed his mother. But did he need Christine enough to want her in other ways?

"My mother's eyes are more blue gray. Miss Chapel's are a powder blue."

"Thank you for that color analysis. So, what are you going to do about this 'watching' of yours?" she asked.

"I do not intend to do anything," Spock admitted truthfully.

Uhura nearly, nearly slapped him. But, she had to remind herself that Spock was not human, he did not mean to just lead her down a garden path. He simply thought he was watching her walk. "You mean to tell me that you enjoy looking at her, but you don't wish to touch her, so to speak?"

"No, I did not say that. While Miss Chapel may believe that she would welcome a relationship with a Vulcan, I believe that it would be otherwise. My mother has not had an easy time."

"Spock, hasn't it ever occurred to you to just take her out on a date, have a nice time, enjoy the comfort of a lovely lady?" Uhura asked knowing deep in her heart that Chapel was a one-man woman. She would not really consider a casual affair with Spock. It was not her method.

"Vulcan social customs are much different than humans. There are no such things as 'dates' on Vulcan. Logic is used to determine which people are suited for the other."

"So that's how you got T'Pring," she jabbed. T'Pring was as logical as selling ice makers to people in the Arctic.

He nodded. "It is not without it's pitfalls. However, there are instances when unbonded males and females are allowed to choose their own mates. They make formal statements of intent, become acquainted with each other through personal dossiers, family ties, and if they find they are well suited, they wed. There are no dates, no going steady, none of the one night stands that humans are so fond of. If that is what you are suggesting I do with Miss Chapel, it is not possible."

Uhura listened and understood where Spock was coming from. Spock was like Christine. Both were adamant about permanent relationships, and both were loathe trying to find out if they might possibly work. Uhura shook her head a little glumly. She thought that perhaps these two had a shot. "Well, all I can say is you'll never know unless you try. But, I can see your problem. It's a cultural thing."

"More deeply rooted than cultural, Miss Uhura. It is in the very fabric of our nature. I could no more go against it than you could not sing," he related hoping that would be the end of it.

"But you still like to watch her walk," Uhura argued, and he agreed.

"Yes, however, if it is apparent, I will have to stop doing that. For both our sakes."

Uhura shook her head. "Mr. Spock, I think you're selling the both of you quite short, but I won't tell Christine anything about this."

"You do not wish to inform her that the object of her desire does have an interest in her, even if it is illogical and unproductive?" he asked a little surprised. He knew from previous experience that humans were hard pressed to keep confidences.

"Spock, I am a communications officer. We take oaths that we do not reveal our sources or let slip any classified information. That's how I'm treating this, as classified material. Besides, I love her too much to do that to her. She's the best friend I've ever had and is like a sister to me. Humans do have their virtues you know," Uhura retorted.

"I do not doubt your veracity. If you will excuse me, I do have inspections of the lower quarters to attend to."

Spock slid out of the booth, and Uhura couldn't help but watch him walk as well. He did have a nice caboose. Chuckling into her mug of coffee, she tried to absorb everything she'd just heard.

* * *

"Computer, messages?"

"There are three intra-ship memos, two messages from the Captain, and you have not submitted your Santa request yet. Do you wish to do so now?"

"Play the messages from the captain," he decided and went about straightening the meditation area.

Jim Kirk's voice filtered through the room. "Spock, need you to bring me a list of the crew who are up for commendations." That one ended and the next one began," Poker game's tonight. You're invited as usual."

Spock nodded. He was always invited to the weekly poker games and he usually declined. He had attended but found the time spent cooped up in a room full of officers all trying to out gamble the other and imbibing large amounts of alcohol as well as caffeine to stay awake an illogical waste. He filed it in the back of his mind in case he needed any of the usual players throughout the evening. With the ship's department heads all locked away in the small recreation room reserved for such activities, he would be the only one left to run the ship effectively. Placing the meditation robe on the bench, he remembered the data tape that Chapel had handed him on the experiment they'd been working on. She'd completed the task and these were the results. Regarding the tape a moment, he said aloud, "Would it be possible to have a 'date' with Miss Chapel?"

Shaking the thought out of his head, he placed the tape in the reader and began pouring over the information.

* * *

Christmas Eve arrived. Spock tried to make himself as scarce as possible. He had celebrated Christmas as a very young child, but at the age of seven when he had declared his intent to follow the Vulcan path, he denied any attempts at that human custom. On a ship full of humans, however, who did celebrate it or a similar holiday it was almost impossible to completely keep from attending at least some of the revelry. He had chosen years earlier to show up at the science department Christmas party, the officer's Christmas party, and one New Years celebration. He rarely spent much more than half an hour at the last one. It was so raucous and out of hand that he could hardly bear it. Arriving for the officer's Christmas party, he noted with some satisfaction that a more formal affair had been attempted. Uhura was already set up and singing at the piano that had been brought in. She was always busy at this time of year trying to fulfill the requests of so many of the crew to appear at their private or departmental parties. Christine had suggested that she record some of her singing and market it, she'd make a bundle. But, she found the joy of singing was interacting with the audience, not staring into a microphone. Spock nodded in greeting to the lieutenant who waved at him happily. He made his way to the table that was already beginning to thin down on the selections. He should have arrived an hour earlier. McCoy noted him, poked a cup of eggnog toward him. "Mr. Spock, have some. Good for what ails you."

Spock could smell the whiskey that had been added to the thick mixture, wrinkled his nose a moment. "No, I believe I will refrain this year."

"Spock, you never change. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were the Grinch himself."

Spock looked at the doctor blankly. McCoy was starting early on the intoxication. Bones didn't miss the look. "Do you even know who the Grinch is?"

"If you are referring to the title character in Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Who Stole Christmas I do. If you are referring to another person, I do not."

That took most of the wind out McCoy's sails. He deflated, decided it was time for more eggnog, and went over to get more. Christine was dipping her own glass. "Well, I see you've started earlier than usual. Don't you think you ought to eat something with that?"

"Don't start on me, woman. You know I don't eat while I'm drinking. Causes stomach trouble," he said.

Christine sighed. Leonard McCoy was nearly impossible during the holidays. She assumed it was because he got a bad case of the guilts. In December they had to begin tallying up the yearly totals for those crewmen treated for minor problems, wounded in action, killed in battle, or died while under their care. It always depressed McCoy that he lost the few that he did. "Still, I made some Black Forest Cake just for you. Please try it. There's rum in it if you have to know."

"Now, that's the kind of cake I like. Lead me to it," he smiled and with a jaunty tilt to his head grabbed his head nurse by the elbow and took her with him.

On the other side of the room, Spock watched the two of them. What would be so terrible about a walk in the garden with her? No, it was not the Vulcan way. And although he had made a vow to stop following her with his eyes, he found that old habits died very hard, especially when she was in such an attractive outfit. The dark velvet dress was short, uncluttered, simple, attractive, and very, very curvaceous. Uhura snuck up on him as he remained focused on Chapel's lower extremities. "You're doing it again."

With a start, he straightened to full attention. "Lieutenant."

"Go ahead, watch her. Allow yourself some pleasure in this world, even if you won't test the waters," Nyota said. The dark skinned communications officer had chosen her favorite party frock, a red see through caftan with gold and bronze swirls in it and underneath a body leotard of gold lame.

Spock turned to look Uhura in the eyes. "It is not possible."

"Whatever. Merry Christmas, Mr. Spock," Uhura sighed.

"Happy Holidays, Miss Uhura."

* * *

Spock woke on Christmas morning. It was the same as every morning. He saw no difference. Removing the clothes he wore to bed, he went into the bath and began readying himself for the day.

* * *

Christine snuggled up in her new bathrobe. It was just as she'd requested, and she loved it. "Computer," she began.

"Working."

"Send a thank you note to yourself for the lovely bathrobe for Christmas," she said happily.

"I shall process the request. Do you wish to review your messages at this time?"

"Sure, might as well," she thought, knowing what the bulk of them would be. Holiday greetings took up most of the space, a few notations on the amount of crew who reported overindulgence the night before. She smiled. People just couldn't leave well enough alone. The last message was not a message per se, it was a reminder of an appointment. "You are to report to the arboretum at 1900 today."

"Computer, why? I have no appointments today," she insisted as she tried to think about the things she'd had on her list. The computer remained silent. She asked again. "Computer?"

"Merry Christmas," the voice intoned and shut off. Christine sighed, pulled the purple robe around her more tightly, and settled back into the comfortable chair that she had found two years earlier. She'd probably made the appointment weeks ago and simply forgot. She was always doing things like that.

* * *

Spock stepped out of the shower, allowed the dryers to create a warm infusion over his whole body. Rubbing a towel through the slick black hair, he had it dried easily and back to its almost automatic position. He had never considered wearing it in any other fashion. After putting the beard inhibitor on and going through the other morning rituals, he was ready to dress and begin his duties for the day.

"Computer, messages?" he asked as he pulled a fresh pair of pants out of the wardrobe.

"There are no new messages today. You have an appointment in the arboretum at 1900 today."

"I have no scheduled inspections of that area," Spock insisted.

"Merry Christmas," the voice cheered and promptly shut off. Spock became quite curious. Why would he have an appointment in the ship's arboretum? He had no test subjects there, there had been no new flora to catalogue or identify, and he knew of no requests that would be on his desk from procurements. He was about to inquire further when an alarm klaxon began howling and he slipped the tunic over his head and was out the door.

* * *

It took nearly eight hours to get the emergency under control. It was not an emergency. A malfunction had triggered the sprinkler system on deck 12 and began flooding the entire corridor. It had taken Spock four hours of crawling through the ductwork overhead to assist in turning the system off manually. Technically, it was a safety hazard to have a deck without sprinklers, but the computer crew was busy on the problem as well as maintenance in getting the area mopped up.

"Spock, you need a bath," Jim Kirk announced as the Vulcan finished explaining what the problems had been and what would need to be adjusted in order to fix it.

The first officer looked down at his uniform. It was streaked with grease, grime, and was fairly sopping wet. He would make a note to have the ducts above that deck regularly cleaned out. "Then, if you will excuse me, I will tend to this immediately."

* * *

Christine stretched in her seat in Sickbay. She had spent an utterly boring day going through the lists of crewmen who had reported in 'sick' and checking up on them. Out of them all, one was really ill. Ensign Koram had a strain of Korellian flu that might cause a problem if not properly taken care of. She logged it in and was about to begin something else when McCoy poked her on the shoulder. "Get out."

"Huh?"

"You get out. I know you. You'll spend all day and night in here, and it is still Christmas. Go and join in some of the revelry," the doctor insisted while he scratched his head.

"Someone was doing a little revelry last night. How's your head?"

"Still ringing, but I'm okay. Come on, go on now get out."

McCoy's insistent tone was one she'd gotten to know well. She didn't feel like sticking around anyway.

"All right, just don't go nipping at the Christmas cheer," Christine warned lightly as she headed back to her cabin.

* * *

For the second time in one day, Spock was showering. He did not normally indulge in such an activity so often, but there were exceptions to every rule. Coming out he noticed the reminder light blinking on his computer. "What is the reminder?"

"You have an appointment in the arboretum in 10 minutes."

"Why?"

A pause, but no further instructions, just, "Merry Christmas."

Spock thought about tearing apart the computer to find out why it was acting in such an odd fashion. But, the appointment was in 10 minutes, and he would find out what it was all about.

* * *

Chapel started to pull off the uniform, decided to check her computer. It was blinking a reminder. "You have an appointment in the arboretum in 8 minutes."

"Oh, yeah, what was that about again?" she asked as she wiggled her feet back into the boots.

"Merry Christmas."

"Yeah, bah humbug to you too. All right all right, I'll go and find out what this stupid appointment is about."

* * *

The ship's arboretum was dimly lit and deserted. The mistletoe crop that had been grown had been harvested and the space cleared out for the roses that were traditionally grown for Valentine's Day. In the middle of the path that also had a perfect view to the observation window, a small table was set up for two. Spock's eyebrow elevated to its usual questioning position. So far, he was the only person who had arrived. He was about to inquire the purpose of the table when the door opened and allowed the other member of the party to enter. He could smell her rather distinctive perfume before he actually turned. Expecting to see a woman in a revealing dress and provocative pose, he was surprised to see her in a standard duty uniform and in just a confused state as he was.

"Miss Chapel," he said cordially.

"Mr. Spock, what's the dinner for?" she asked pointing to the table.

"I thought that perhaps you knew."

"No."

"You did not arrange this?" Spock asked warily. Christine shook her head. She had never lied to him so why would she start now.

"No, did you?" she asked rather startled.

"No. However, someone did go to the trouble to arrange it," he said. He knew who it had to be. He did not wish to create a scene or make accusations before speaking to Miss Uhura, but he did have to deal with Christine Chapel now. Calculating his odds, he decided, "Have you eaten?"

"No, I was just going to get a sandwich. Are you suggesting that we go through with this?"

"It is prepared. The food has been laid out. I suggest it only to keep from wasting it," Spock stated logically.

"Of course, it would be the logical thing to do," she said, the sarcasm quite evident in her voice. With an exasperated sigh, she went over to one of the chairs and pulled it out, sat down, and scooted it back in. Removing the cutlery from the napkin, she started to eat. Spock stood over the table, a little dismayed. If this was meant to be a 'date', it was not as he had expected. Still, Miss Chapel did not know why Uhura had set this little dinner up. She looked up at him. "You're not going to eat now?"

"Forgive me, I was simply trying to ascertain who might have arranged this." Whoever had done it knew their favorite dishes. A bottle of wine sat in a holder next to the table. Spock regarded it, offered some to the nurse. "Wine?"

"No, thank you."

They ate in silence. Spock was not accustomed to eating his meals on the rush, but Chapel had seemed to make it her duty to see how quickly she could eat the entire seven courses. Spock pointed this out. "Miss Chapel, do you not fear complications from eating so fast?"

She swallowed, smiled a little. "Well, I guess I do eat like I have to catch a transport in five minutes. Comes from years of emergency meals."

Slowing her knife cutting down, she tried not to choke on the food. She knew who had come up with this little plan, and she was going to get a good dose of her rather spicy tongue when she finished pretending to have a nice meal with Spock. Spock began with the selection of Vulcan appetizers that had been arranged before him. They were good for the computer fare, but he had eaten better. If anything convinced him that Chapel had not arranged it, this was it. Christine would have hand prepared each item and not allowed a computer to cook any of it.

Christine noted the rather hesitant manner that he had regarding the food. "Isn't it right?"

Spock watched the nurse. Maybe she had arranged .... no, he would stick with his first thoughts. "It is simply what one would expect from a computer."

"Kinda lousy, huh? Well, mine isn't much better. I guess whoever arranged this didn't want to go to too much trouble," Christine shrugged. She kept eating. It wasn't setting too well though. Finally she gave up trying to be the amiable date, pulled the napkin off her lap, and flopped it on the table. "Mr. Spock, if you would excuse me. I'd rather spend my off hours in my own manner."

Spock was chewing so he had no chance to say wait or goodbye as she strode past his side of the table. With long steps she headed for the door. They didn't open and she didn't rein in fast enough to keep from hitting the wall. "Computer, why won't the doors open?"

The computer's voice filled the room," The date is not completed. You have not finished your meal as well as the after meal activities."

"What?" she asked horrified. Spock too had begun to wonder what was going on. "Computer, please give a list of the entire evenings events as planned."

The list began, "Dinner, dessert, dancing, a walk through the arboretum, and finally a goodnight kiss."

"That's it!" Christine fairly screamed and started beating on the doors. "Let me out!"

Spock too added his voice to the chaos. "Computer, release the lock on this door immediately."

"Unable to comply with your request, Merry Christmas," the voice said and abruptly broke off.

"So help me if I get hold of that Nyota I'll kill her so fast--" Christine was saying as she leaned against the closed doors.

"You believe that Miss Uhura arranged for this evening?" Spock asked as he stepped away from the table. He had lost his appetite completely.

"Who else? I was trying to tell her the other day that I wanted to forget the whole thing, and I thought she understood. I guess she didn't. I'm sorry," the nurse said a forlorn expression on her face as she turned to face him. She could barely meet his eyes, and she could feel tears begin to form. He'd not see her cry, not if she could help it.

"You had nothing to do with this. Why would you need to apologize?"

"Because, I'm in the middle of it. I'm always in the middle of it. I'm just sorry that I ever had any feelings at all about you. I think it's gotten you and me in more trouble than it's helped. In fact, I know it has."

Spock found himself equally as distressed as the nurse. He simply didn't show it. He had spoken to Uhura only a few days ago about his tendency to watch the nurse as she walked and at other times. He had also tried to convince the communications officer that any type of casual relationship with anyone was not the standard practice on Vulcan. He did not wish to reveal this to the nurse, but she was not to blame completely for the evening. Clearing his throat, he took a semi-formal stance and began, "I fear that your theory is not valid. I too spoke to Miss Uhura. If anything, she is acting on my revelations and not yours."

Christine shook her head. She was tired and Spock wasn't making sense. Sinking to a bench that was next to the door, she ran a hand over her face. "Mr. Spock, I'm confused. You're confused. Let's just leave it at that, okay?"

"No, I must tell you this before things become more out of hand than they already are. Please allow me to get through this without interruptions," he cautioned. "The other day when I joined you in the recreation room, I had a conversation with Miss Uhura after you left. I believe that is the reason that we are now imprisoned here in the arboretum."

He changed his stance, started to pace a little. He made certain from time to time that she was following him. "In this conversation, a discussion took place regarding 'dating' procedures. Miss Uhura asked me if it would be so reprehensible to 'date' you or someone like you."

"Date me or someone like me?" she asked a little stunned at his choice of words.

"In other words, keep company with a female simply for the pleasure of her company. I explained that on Vulcan, that is not done. I too was under the impression that Miss Uhura understood what I had said."

"But apparently she didn't. Well, that's swell. So, here we are stuck in the arboretum with dessert, dancing, a walk, and a goodnight kiss to follow before we can leave," Christine said slapping her knee in frustration.

"Perhaps if we do as the computer has required, we will be released without further difficulty," Spock suggested seeing it as the only alternative besides having them forcibly released. He did not wish that in part because it would be embarrassing to explain why they were there. Christine was already in enough distress that he would rather explore other options.

"Good grief. Computer, what's for dessert?"

"Commander Spock is eating fried apples, Lieutenant Christine Chapel is eating chocolate layer cake with whipped cream."

"Suzy Qs, just what I need, more chocolate," she lamented. Getting up she sat back down at the table, pushed the main meal away and relented. "Dessert."

A tray was revealed and Spock brought it over to the table. It contained both dishes. The items were consumed quietly and quickly. When those were satisfactorily finished, Christine wondered aloud about the dance selections. "So, when does the music start?"

A particular song came on and Christine rolled her eyes. It was perhaps the sappiest of the love songs that had come out in recent memory. "Well, we might as well get started. Do you dance, Mr. Spock?"

"No."

"Great, computer, he doesn't dance," she informed loudly.

"Teach him."

With a groan she stuck her hand out. "Come on."

Fearing for his safety if he did not do as she wished, he held out his right hand to grasp hers. She led him to the empty section of the floor and showed him where to put his other hand. "Now, with your right foot, step forward."

He did so. She kept instructing him until they were basically going around in a box within five cubic feet of space. The song ended. Christine dropped her hand. "Computer, can we go a little faster? How about that walk you required?"

"That would be appropriate now."

Heading through the maze of pots and plants and vegetation, they found themselves amongst the tangle of climbing vines. "Did you receive the gift you requested?" Spock asked as they picked their way through the vines.

"Yes, it's very nice. Did you get what you requested?"

"I requested nothing for Christmas. I thought they could have used the recreation funds for other purposes than personal items for the crew," Spock said.

"Like what, a party? You don't attend those either," Christine said with a sarcastic laugh. The path began to diverge at one of the large palm trees that was being cultivated for coconuts.

"Perhaps new equipment or more library tapes. Would that not serve a much wider purpose for a longer period of time than a single party or present?"

"I suppose. So, are you having a nice time on our 'date'?"

Christine moved away from him, walked toward the observation windows, leaned against them to watch the stars as they streaked past them. Spock considered all that had gone on that evening. "No, are you?"

"No. But, it's not because you've not." She trailed off, allowed whatever she was going to say to become lost in the stars.

"I have not been?"

"Well, you've tried. It's not your fault if we're not precisely having a nice time. It's just not right. I'm not making much sense, am I?"

"Not really. However, I do believe that I can agree with you. It is an awkward situation that neither of us wished to be involved in. It has not been unpleasant, simply awkward."

Christine smiled. Spock was not in a position to see the tear that trickled down the left side of her face. "You know, I'm really beginning to hate Christmas," she whispered. She dreaded it like an annual reunion with people she hated but had to attend because it was expected of her.

Spock nodded. "It has become one of the more annoying parts of dealing with a primarily human crew."

That brought a slight chuckle. "Maybe you should have it banned. I'm sure that you could do something with all your authority."

"I have tried to have all ship wide parties banned during this time. It did not work."

Christine turned to look at him a little surprised. He continued, "Star Fleet would not accept my premise that it was an infringement of religious rights on the ship. Not everyone believes in Jesus Christ or in Santa Claus."

"True, but I don't think people dwell on that now," Christine said. Her heart sank to her knees. She'd kept the holiday blues from getting the best of her until now. Now it hit like a ton of concrete, all in one chunk. Sighing, she tried to think of something cheerful, ended up sniffling instead. "So, you were going to be the Grinch, huh? Well, more power to you."

The Vulcan first officer looked at her for a long moment realized that she was serious in her pronouncement. "You would not be angered if Star Fleet had ruled in my favor?"

"Oh, I don't know. I guess in a way I would have been. It is a time to just let loose. But, there would have been a large part of me that would have been relieved. I don't like holidays," she answered. Turning back to the window, she leaned forward till her forehead hit the glass.

"You are perhaps the first human I have met who has said that," Spock revealed. He did a quick mental calculation. Yes, she was the first one who had stated that.

"There are more of us than you think. It's all an act, you know. We pretend to be happy, jolly, holiday lovers. Personally, I can't wait till this whole part of the year blows over. But, I have to wait till February 14th for that, and then there is my birthday."

"You do not wish to celebrate your birthday either?" Spock asked even more confused. Humans, as much as they might complain, enjoyed the fuss made around them. Deciding that it was a little cold standing beside the outer hull, he stepped closer to the paths and sat on the bench. He made a mental note to have the heating system checked when they got out.

"Spock, birthdays and holidays and celebrations, well, they all remind me of one thing," the nurse began quietly then waited until she turned to face him to provide him with the answer," that I'm completely alone in the world. There's an old song, a sad one. It starts out: 'When you're alone, who cares for starlit skies.' Well, they got that right. Holidays were not meant for people who are peopleless. They were meant for family and kids and traditions. I have none of those. This ship became my family three years ago. But, as much as I do love it here, it is still a very lonely place to be."

"Your expectations have naturally caused you to look back on the past with regret at this time," Spock surmised.

"That's part of it. I had a family. I don't now. I had a future with someone. I don't now. I try not to think about it. But, of course, this little fiasco has just really brightened my whole outlook on life. I think I'm my own worst enemy. I spent five years searching for someone. Well, I found him, lost him. I've spent another three years chasing someone else that I can't have," she looked directly at him. "You. I can't have you. I've always known it. But, well, my dreams are my own purgatory so to speak. You've been very good about it all this time. Can I ask you something a little odd?" Spock nodded. "Why didn't you transfer me years ago?"

He thought. He could have had her transferred. It would not have been a reflection on her professional record. He gave the standard answer. "I saw your potential. I thought it would be best nurtured and served on this ship."

"Thanks, I think. You know, I might have been better off if I'd been transferred."

"You can always request."

She stopped him. " I don't do what's best for me. I've always been told that. I can tell everyone else what they should do, ought to do, but with me, I can't even tell the time of day. Someone else has always had to make me do what I needed to do. Makes me feel a little helpless."

Spock had never seen this side of Christine Chapel. He had always known she had a problem with asserting herself professionally, but he never knew that she had such difficulties in other aspects of her life. "Do you wish to be transferred?"

"Do you think I should be transferred?" she asked pleading with him to help her.

"No, I don't believe you do."

Christine laughed, sniffed again. "Spock, you kill me. You'd rather put up with me and the way I've acted toward you then just get rid of me?"

"If I weigh the times in my life that you have been involved, I find that my life is better for having you in it. It is true that there have been incidents that are best left in the past, but I do owe my life to you at least three times. I believe that outweighs any negative incidents that might have occurred. And, I might add, even those weren't entirely negative."

Christine felt herself flush a little, whether it was from the tears or the roundabout compliment, she wasn't sure. "So, I'm not the albatross that I feel like I am all the time."

"No, you are not an albatross. I do regret that my reactions to you cannot give you what you desire," he chose to add.

"Oh, Spock, I have a feeling that if we actually did have a fling that it would end up so badly that ... well, let's just say that this is the best we will ever achieve, two ordinary people who can at least pass the time of day without screaming at each other. Frankly, you scare the hell out of me," she admitted.

"And you I," Spock replied quietly. They locked eyes for a moment. For some odd reason, something pulled them together. Spock took her into his arms, kissed her hard, but not painfully so. Christine responded with equal gusto. When they parted, the sound of a locked door clicked through the room. The computer had apparently seen and heard the entire affair.

"We are free to go," Spock said softly.

Christine untangled herself from his grasp. "Good. Well, that might have been the computer's idea of a date, but it certainly wasn't mine. I hope it wasn't too degrading for you."

"Not at all. I was not completely truthful when I stated that I was not having a nice time. I did have a nice evening, even if it was forced upon us."

They made their way back through the arboretum till they were just outside the doors. "So did I. It wasn't a total loss."

She began to go out the door, found it suddenly locked again. Spock's finger held the lock mechanism down. "Spock?"

"What would you have planned if we had arranged a date?" he asked.

The nurse smiled a little. "Well, I like picnics on nice sunny afternoons, maybe a concert or a boat ride on a small lake. I like my dates filled with activities. Moonlit dinners are for the more serious minded."

Spock released the lock. The door slid open. As they stepped into the corridor into a brighter light than they had been accustomed to for some time, they hesitated. There weren't any crewmen lurking about so they didn't have to worry about questioning stares. Before parting, Spock decided, "Our next stop is Vega Epsilon II. I have heard that it has an excellent amusement park. Would you go on a .... date with me there?"

She smiled, a bright happy one. "You bet. But, one thing."

"Yes?"

"As friends, not as ... dates. I think we'd have more fun if we did it that way."

"As you wish. Thank you for the evening, Miss Chapel, and Merry Christmas."

"Yes, yes, it was. Merry Christmas, Mr. Spock," the nurse said and headed for her cabin as Spock headed for his.



The End

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