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Traditions

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ENTERPRISE BRIDGE

T'Pol unobtrusively observed the bridge personnel. She had researched human culture and traditions quite thoroughly and the attitudes portrayed by the crew did not fit within the parameters she had analyzed.

Two hours later, after quietly working at her science station and watching her fellow bridge crew members, who were extraordinarily quiet at their stations, she came to a decision.

T'Pol got up, "Lt Reed, you have the bridge." At his nod, she turned and left the bridge.

She went directly to the Captain's Ready Room where he had sequestered himself.

At the chime, "Come in."

She entered and stopped at the edge of his desk. Captain Archer, like his crew, looked pensive and distracted. He tilted his head in query.

"Yes, Sub-Commander, what can I do for you?"

She looked at him and considered her words carefully, "Captain, I have studied human culture quite thoroughly since I have been assigned to the Enterprise."

Watching his reaction, which was to look at her in surprise, "Of course, that would be logical. But what does that have to do with anything?"

Shifting very slightly from one foot to the other, with both hands behind her back, "Captain, please correct me if I am wrong, but is this not the period of time called Christmas on Earth?"

Leaning forward in his chair to look at her and saying slowly "Yes, it is. What about it?"

"Are you going to celebrate it on-board?" Plunging headlong into her rehearsed statement, "I have been observing the bridge crew and other crew members in Engineering and also the Mess. For a holiday period, the crew seems to be not as emotionally happy as my studies have indicated they would be during this time."

Archer sighed, leaning back in his chair, "You're right."

Staring at her, "T'Pol, you're normally not this vague. What are you getting at?"

Straightening her already straight shoulders, "Captain, I recommend that this ship participate in the celebration of Christmas. You will need to decide exactly which ceremonies or rituals you will observe. I would suggest that at the least a Christmas party would be advantageous to the crew."

Archer looked at her in surprise. He wasn't expecting this.

He gestured for her to continue. "I also researched something called a Secret Santa or gift exchange." Staring at a space just above Archer's shoulder, she continued, "Captain, I offer these suggestions as your second in command. With the crew not at optimum performance level, we could be placing ourselves in possibility of danger."

Looking at her in askance, "C'Mon T'Pol. The crew wouldn't put the ship in danger." Another deep breath, "But you're right. I appreciate your concerns about the crew."

Suddenly a sly smile crossed his face, "You're also right about us needing to celebrate Christmas." The smile changed to a teasing expression, "I think that since you thought of it, you should be in charge of it." A huge smile lit up his face.

T'Pol looked at Archer, with an arched eyebrow. "Captain, while I appreciate the honor, I would recommend that perhaps Commander Tucker and Ensign Sato would best be suited for these duties. I would also suggest that you would be a beneficial factor to planning these festivities."

Again looking away from Archer's intense stare, "I would also volunteer to take additional bridge shifts to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate."

Anticipating his disapproval, "Captain, I am a Vulcan. I do not celebrate these holidays. It is logical to allow as many of the crew to participate as possible. I can easily work two or three bridge shifts without detriment."

Archer's expression slowly melted from outrage to understanding. "Sub-Commander, you continue to surprise me." He stood up and crossed over to stand closely beside her, "T'Pol, thank you. Your suggestions are excellent."

Looking at her, studying her, he said gently, "I would like you to participate in our festivities. Would you do that?"

Looking up at him, then lowering her eyes to the porthole. She said softly, "If you would like me to participate, I will do so."

Just as softly, "Yes, I do."

She nodded. In a stronger voice, "Captain, will you notify Commander Tucker and Ensign Sato?"

Continuing to look at her with an emotion she could not identify, he finally said. "Yes, of course."

She nodded again. "Thank you, Captain. I will be on the bridge." They exchanged another glance and she left the room.

A huge smile crossed Archer's face after she left. Looking at Porthos, "What a...being."

T'Pol reentered the bridge. She looked at Lt Reed, "Nothing to report, Sub-Commander." She nodded and sat down at the Science Station.

Suddenly Captain Archer's voice sounded throughout the ship, "Commander Tucker and Ensign Sato report to my Ready Room."

Hoshi looked up in surprise, then over at T'Pol who nodded. She got up and left the Bridge. T'Pol slaved communications to her Science Station.

CAPTAIN'S READY ROOM

The door chimed again. The second time in less than two minutes. T'Pol was right, the crew was becoming bored and depressed.

"Come."

In walked Commander Tucker. "Captain, Hoshi." He took a seat on the couch, next to Hoshi.

Archer had a smile on face, plus something else they couldn't decipher. "Trip, Hoshi, its come to my attention that we should celebrate Christmas on-board the Enterprise."

Looking at their shocked, but pleased expressions, "I know, I know, Starfleet Command was concerned about celebrating Christmas. For reasons known only to themselves."

Shaking his head, "But I've decided that we're going to have a Christmas party for the crew."

Hoshi looked happy, "Oh sir, that's great. Can we do a Secret Santa?"

Choking back a laugh, Archer replied, "Yes, of course. I want you and Trip to organize the party. Decorations, gifts, food—everything. Let's do it right."

Trip laughed, "That's great, Jon. Hey, maybe we can find something to use as a Christmas Tree with lights and everything."

Suddenly his smiled faded a little, "Ah, Jon, what about T'Pol? Won't this offend her Vulcan...sensibilities?"

Displeased, Archer looked at Trip, causing him to sit back on the couch, "Commander, it was Sub-Commander T'Pol's suggestion that we celebrate Christmas. In fact, she volunteered to work extra bridge shifts to ensure everyone had a chance to go to the party and enjoy themselves."

Trip sighed, "Jon, I didn't mean it that way. You know that. I think I even like T'Pol. Well, as well as I can for someone who never laughs or smiles. I do respect her though. She's a good science officer and, hell, even a good second in command. Which surprises me."

Hoshi just looked back and forth between Trip and the Captain. She was so not getting in this conversation.

Then Archer looked over at her. "Do you have any questions, Ensign?"

Not even glancing at Trip, "Yes, sir. We can have the party in the Mess Hall and draw names for the Secret Santa. We can get with the Chef to plan a Christmas buffet. But we may need to get extra provisions."

Smiling at her enthusiasm, "You're free to plan a really special Christmas Party. Let the crew know about the party as soon as possible. I'll help in whatever way I can, just let me know. If we need extra supplies, get with T'Pol, she should be able to find a planet to get them at."

Hoshi and Trip stood up, "We'll plan the best party, Captain."

Smiling, "Great, dismissed." Once they got out the door, Hoshi hit Trip in the arm.

"What were you thinking? Talking about T'Pol like that?" Hoshi looked at him like he was an idiot.

Trip looked at her, "What? She's a Vulcan. They don't do Christmas. Heck, we don't even know what they believe in, other than their holier than thou logic."

She continued to look at him like he was crazy.

Trip raised his hands in surrender, "I know. Every time I think I've got her figured out, she goes and does something...human."

Sighing at his obtuseness, "Just don't say that to her, Commander."

THE MESS HALL TWO WEEKS LATER

Trip and Hoshi had worked extremely hard to get the party planned, the decorations up, and the Secret Santa names exchanged. The crew was caught up in the festivities, and finally, they were smiling and laughing again.

T'Pol had planned on watching the festivities from afar, analyzing the situation. However, Captain Archer had other plans. He kept her updated on the planning and included her in meetings with Hoshi and Trip.

In fact, directly after the first meeting with the Captain, Hoshi and Trip came to see her.

Looking a little uncomfortable, Trip began, "T'Pol..."

He glanced over at Hoshi, who sighed and continued for him, "Sub-Commander, thank you. We appreciate that you went to the Captain and got him to approve a party for Christmas." Hoshi smiled at T'Pol.

T'Pol nodded, "If there is anything I can do to assist, please let me know."

Trip stepped closer to T'Pol. "T'Pol this was a very nice thing you did. Thank you."

She stared at Trip, nodded. Then an eyebrow rose, "It seemed the logical thing to do." Hoshi smothered a laugh. Trip wasn't sure whether she was teasing him or completely serious. But with Hoshi's laugh, he thought he might be the victim of extremely dry Vulcan humor.

PRESENT TIME

The Mess Hall was decorated with tinsel, ornaments, and some twinkling lights that Trip had Engineering rig up. They even had a Christmas Tree. Not exactly a pine tree, but T'Pol said that it was a close match and that worked for them. The room with its dim lights and decorations looked almost magical. The gifts were under the tree.

T'Pol was on the bridge. The Christmas Party was due to start in half an hour and the crew was being scaled down to a minimum, with replacements coming on duty every hour or so, allowing everyone to participate.

T'Pol had programmed continuous scans to run to ensure the safety of the ship in this sector. But she had also maneuvered the ship into a 'safe' section of the quadrant, telling the Captain that she was interested in scanning the solar system. Vulcan had already done it three times. Nothing new was ever discovered. She anticipated that she would not find anything either, but at least it was a valid excuse.

TWO HOURS LATER

The Christmas party was in full swing and everyone was having a great time. There was a small area cleared for dancing and some couples were out there enjoying themselves. The food was excellent, the Chef had outdone himself for the occasion. Hoshi had decided that the gifts would be exchanged later on in the evening. Archer, Phlox, Trip, and Hoshi were sitting together at one table on the far side of the room. They were watching Mayweather dance with an Ensign from Engineering. The party was great and everyone was happy.

Hoshi leaned back, "You know it's funny. T'Pol started all of this, but she's not here to enjoy it. I feel kinda bad about that. I know that she doesn't celebrate Christmas, but I wish she were here."

Archer smiled, "Well, you just never know." Lt Reed appeared at his elbow. "Sir, I'm ready if you are."

Nodding, Archer stood up and left with Reed. The rest of the table looked at each other in confusion.

BRIDGE

Captain Archer walked onto the Bridge. All primary stations were manned, but the secondary stations weren't. T'Pol was at her Science Station with the command functions slaved there.

She rose when Archer entered. So did an eyebrow. Archer grinned in amusement, 'When didn't an eyebrow raise? And more to the point, when did I get used to that?'

"Captain, I thought you were at the Christmas party?" He continued to walk over to the Science Station.

"I am, or rather I was." Looking at her, "T'Pol, I would like you to come with me to the party."

Looking at him with surprise in her eyes, which quickly disappeared, "Captain, there is no one to delegate the bridge..." She broke off at his smile.

"Well, T'Pol, I took care of that." The turbo lift opened and Lt Reed walked over to them.

"Sub-Commander, I will take the Bridge." She looked at him, then back to Archer. She nodded. Archer gestured for her to precede him.

Reed watched them leave, shook his head, and went through the checklist for the bridge functions.

Archer and T'Pol were quiet in the turbo lift. Archer kept smiling at her, and finally T'Pol asked, "Captain, is there something that I should know?"

Still smiling, "Only that I really appreciate that you suggested having a Christmas party. It was exactly what the crew needed. The party is great and everyone is enjoying themselves. Thank you."

She nodded and looked at the floor.

They reached the Mess Deck and Archer gently placed his hand on her elbow. She looked up at him, but did not move away, though she did reinforce her shields. She had not explained why Vulcans do not touch other beings, but for some reason she did not really mind Captain Archer touching her. She would have to meditate about that.

Archer smiled at her again, "T'Pol, please, would you call me Jonathan? We'll be at a party; it would be appropriate for you to do so."

This time both eyebrows rose, contemplatively, "Yes, Jonathan."

His hand closed more fully around her elbow, gently guiding her into the room. Hoshi fell silent at the sight. There was Captain Archer and Sub-Commander T'Pol. His hand on her arm and leaning down to speak with her, with a smile on his face. She wasn't smiling, but it seemed that she wasn't displeased with the situation.

"Hoshi, tell me what I'm seeing," this from Trip. He had also watched them enter the room. Phlox, who had somewhat of an idea, smiled and took a drink of the holiday punch.

"Trip, you're seeing exactly what I'm seeing. The Captain and the Sub-Commander came to the party."

He looked at her in askance "Thanks, Hoshi. That I can see. Does it mean anything?"

She took a drink, "Why, does it bother you?"

Trip thought about that. Phlox waited for his response. "Well, no. I mean, I've noticed that she's not unattractive. But she's a Vulcan, so I don't think of her quite that way. Not to mention she'd probably break me in two."

Suddenly, "Well, that's good to hear, Trip."

Embarrassed, Trip dropped his head and then turned around. There stood Archer and T'Pol. She was standing a lot closer to Archer than normal. Archer's face was relaxed. He pulled a chair out for T'Pol to sit down. "I'll go and get us something to drink."

At her look, "Don't worry. Nothing alcoholic, nothing with animal in it." She nodded. He moved away.

T'Pol looked around, then at Hoshi and Trip. "This party appears to be what the crew required. You have done satisfactorily."

Hoshi smiled and Trip grinned. They were used to satisfactory and adequate as euphemisms for Vulcan praise. If she ever said anything better than that, the whole ship would faint in surprise.

Phlox spoke, "But as I understand it, Sub-Commander, it was your initial request that made this possible. How did you convince the Captain to approve it? Especially after Starfleet had made a request to all of its ships with non-humans aboard not to have human parties."

Jonathan had returned by then, with drinks for both of them, sitting down beside her. He waited to hear her answer.

She paused, gathering her thoughts, "While it is true that Vulcans do not have celebrations such as Christmas, we do have our smaller, quieter, traditions. Not celebrations, but traditions."

She glanced around the table, her gaze finally resting on Archer, "We understand the need to continue these traditions. During my studies of Earth culture, I discovered that you also have your traditions. Christmas celebrations are one of your traditions. Practiced, in one methodology or another, by almost all of the planetary population. It was illogical of Starfleet to request that you not continue your tradition. Your tradition is not of the Vulcan way, or the Denoblian way, but it is of the Earth way and should be honored. Therefore, it was logical to request the continuation of the tradition and logical of Captain Archer to approve it."

Trip smiled at her, "Logical, of course."

The rest of the table laughed. Phlox smiled as he took another drink. She quickly took a sip of her drink. Discussing Vulcan practices, even as vaguely as that, was disconcerting.

Archer smiled at her and leaned towards her to whisper, "I like your logical approach to the problem. Would you someday tell me what your Vulcan traditions?"

"Perhaps, Captain."

At his look, "Jonathan."

TWO HOURS LATER

Archer and T'Pol had walked around the room talking with the other crew. Well, mostly it was Archer talking with T'Pol by his side. They were skirting the dance floor when an old Christmas song started playing. Jonathan paused when it started.

T'Pol stared at him, "Jonathan, is everything alright?"

He looked at her, considering something very slowly.

Nodding, "Yes, everything is fine. This song was just a favorite of mine when I was growing up. Its called "White Christmas." There's a great movie that goes with it."

Shaking his head and a small deprecating smile on his face, "T'Pol, will you dance with me?"

Both eyebrows almost disappeared into her hair. She looked steadily at him, then at everyone who was dancing.

She saw couples in each other's arms. One eyebrow finally came down, the other still high in contemplation. After a moment, "Yes."

She surprised him again. It was a chance he had taken, but expected her to say no. He gestured for her to precede him to the dance floor where she led them to a corner of the floor.

She turned around and he carefully took her right hand and placed his right one on her waist. She looked at him, the other couples, and finally placed her other hand on his shoulder. He slowly pulled her closer, not to close, as he didn't want to cause her too much discomfort. They slowly waltzed, almost in place as the floor was crowded. They stared at each other. The song ended, they slowly parted, and returned to the table in silence.

The rest of the room, and especially the table where the command crew was sitting, were somewhere between mesmerized and shocked while they watched their Captain and the Sub-Commander dance. After more small talk at the table, T'Pol got up as Hoshi and Trip went to the Christmas Tree to begin to pass out the gifts.

Jonathan also got up, but he followed T'Pol. She had gone to the Chef and gotten some of her Vulcan tea. It wasn't her usual mint tea, and Jonathan looked at it and then her with inquiry. It didn't smell as good as her mint tea did.

She answered his unspoken question, "It is a traditional Vulcan tea."

Jonathan looked at her, trying to decide if she was homesick for Vulcan. She could read Jonathan's expression with perfect clarity.

"Jonathan, I only wanted a Vulcan tea. Too much sugar makes my stomach ache and drinking this tea helps. Doctor Phlox and I tried many different combinations, but this particular tea was the best for solving this problem."

Looking at him and still seeing some concern, "I have no plans to leave the Enterprise. I am satisfied with my current situation."

Seeing her seriousness, he relaxed. 'I'm glad. I wouldn't want you to leave."

She nodded and looked around the room. "They are passing out the gifts."

He smiled again and guided her back to the table.

"SUB-COMMANDER T'POL, PLEASE REPORT TO THE BRIDGE."

T'Pol looked up at Archer. In the sudden silence, she walked over to the intercom, "I am on my way."

She stopped by Archer on her way out the door, "Thank you, Jonathan. I enjoyed myself. I will keep you informed."

He nodded and she was gone. He returned to the table, just as Trip returned. "Jon, good, you're still here. I didn't want you to miss getting your present."

Archer just smiled. Phlox looked at them, "Indeed, Commander. I think he already did."