Author's notes: Songs: All Alone On Christmas- Darlene Love, Early Christmas Morning- Cyndi Lauper, A Child is Bornâ€”umm, haven't a clue.
She was beginning to think that she would never understand humans. Their behavior was normally fairly erratic but this was beyond what she was used to. The messhall had been transformed overnight. Every available surface was covered in shiny, brightly colored shapes and long strands. Very loud music blared from the speakers and she could hear excited laughter. In the corner she saw a large group of crewmembers, liberally draped with many-stranded brightly colored material, shouting instructions to Ensign Sato who was precariously balanced on a ladder attempting to attach these decorations to the walls. T'Pol watched in horrified fascination for a few minutes then backed away and left the room with relief. Deciding that going hungry was infinitely preferably to having to face that insanity again, she turned and headed back towards her quarters. On her way, she was almost knocked down by Commander Tucker who bounded down the corridor with a large pair of oddly shaped red horns attached to his head.
"Sorry T'Pol, didn't see you there."
"That is evident. May I ask what that is on your head."
He laughed loudly. "They're reindeer antlers T'Pol."
"What is all this in aid of?"
"Its Christmas T'Pol!!!!" As if that explained everything.
She stood watching him retreat down the corridor, highly confused.
She found the captain in his ready room wearing a red hat with a white bobble on the end. Catching her glance he removed it sheepishly.
"Ah T'Pol, enjoying the Christmas buzz."
"I do not understand. I was informed that this was a religious festival. You are not religious, nor is a fairly large part of the crew. Why then is it being celebrated with such gusto?"
"Christmas is about religion, but its more than that as well. Its become a time when people can come together and celebrate. Its supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill, when we can put aside enmity and love one another."
She didn't look particularly impressed. "I fail to see how dressing up in ridiculous outfits and filling the ship with gaudy decorations is necessary to put aside enmity."
"Well we've been stuck in deep space for a long time, we need a party. Don't Vulcan's ever celebrate anything?"
"When a child is born, or when two people are bonded there are some festivities, but nothing on this scale."
"No, I'm sure its all very quiet and restrained. Anyway I hope you aren't planning to hide away in your quarters until its all over." She avoided his eyes. "No way T'Pol, you should try to experience human culture. Dr Phlox is very excited about it. He's been helping to decorate the tree and asking hundreds of questions to anyone who'll listen."
"I have more important duties to perform." She turned and stalked away. He followed her, amused. When she reached the doors to the bridge she stopped suddenly with a sharp intake of breath. As he followed her in, he saw that his crew had definitely been busy; the bridge had been decked out even more as brightly than the mess hall. Wherever he looked he could see bright tinsel, multicolored lights, flashing Santas and Christmas trees. He could feel T'Pol, quietly fuming at his side.
"Captain, a word." Her voice was icy and he shivered involuntarily. He pulled her aside, out of earshot from the rest of the crew who were watching surreptitiously from their stations. Captain this display is most unprofessional."
"Oh, come on T'Pol, its only for a few days, it brightens the place up."
"The bridge is a place of work, it does not need brightening up. You humans are trying to show that you are ready for deep space travel, this will not help my people to take you seriously. These things are all very well in private but they are not suitable for the bridge of a starship."
He bowed his head in defeat. "Ok T'Pol, maybe it's a little over the top, I'll sort it out." She nodded approvingly and left the room. He turned to Trip with an apologetic grin. "Not on the bridge Trip." He could practically feel the crew's disappointment.
"Aw man, I can't believe you're taking her side."
"I'm not taking anyone's side, but the decorations have got to go." As he left he heard Trip mutter "Damn Vulcan killjoy."
As T'Pol sat in her quarters meditating, she heard the chime at the door. The captain entered, a huge grin on his face. She raised her eyes inquiringly. What was it now? "Yes captain."
"Come with me, T'Pol, I want to show you something."
She shot him a questioning glance. "What?"
"Its a surprise, you'll have to come and see." With a brief thought of the irritating habits of humans, T'Pol reluctantly stood and followed him out. He led her to the captain's messhall and paused for a second outside the door.
She looked at him impatiently. "What now?"
"You have to shut your eyes." Barely suppressing her frustration she obeyed. He reached out to take her arm and led her into the room. She couldn't help a wave of heat washing over her at the feel of his skin and she was relieved when he finally let go. "You can open your eyes now" She did so and gasped in wonder. The room was dark but draped with soft fairy lights. Archer went over to the corner and the room was filled with gentle, melodious music.
"Is this more to your liking?"
"It certainly jars the senses a little less."
"I guess that's as near to approval as I'm ever going to get."
She hesitated for a second. "It is beautiful captain. Thank you."
He smiled. "Well I didn't think you'd venture into the messhall again until this has died down a little. I wanted you to understand that's not all Christmas is about. Just...Try to enjoy it."
"I will try captain." Perhaps she could begin to see what he was talking about.
Early Christmas morning, when most of the crew were still sleeping, Captain Archer headed down to the messhall. Someone had placed a gigantic Christmas tree as over decorated at the room itself. The piles of presents now covered most of the floor; you could barely get within a few meters of the tree itself. He smiled to himself at the generosity of his crew wondering how long it would take them to work their way through the mounds. They had all been through a great deal over the past few months. They deserved some enjoyment. Adding his parcels to the pile he returned to the bridge.
The officers present certainly seemed to have little trouble enjoying themselves. Hoshi was wrapping presents and laughing at Trip who was attempting to dance along to some very loud festive music. Only Malcolm actually seemed to be doing any work. Trying to keep a straight face he walked in apparently unnoticed, "Well let's hope no alien species choose today to attack us."
The crew jumped, shooting him guilty looks. Hoshi surreptitiously slipped her gifts to the floor.
"Aw Captain, it's Christmas." Trip pleaded.
"Yes but I doubt they know that. You come off duty in a few minutes."
"You're startin' to sound like T'Pol."
Hoshi cut in before the discussion got any more heated. "Did anyone here get T'Pol a present?" Malcolm nodded somewhat awkwardly.
Trip shuddered. "Yup, and boy was it hard. I mean what do you get a Vulcan for Christmas? Its not like you can give them chocolates or jewelry." Malcolm looked even more awkward. "Oh Malcolm, you didn't get her chocolates did you?" He hung his head. "They don't even like sweets."
"Well I didn't know, I couldn't think of anything else. I'm not used to trying to find presents for Vulcan ice queens while on a ship in the middle of deep space. I mean the shops are hardly abundant."
Always the peacemaker, Hoshi spoke soothingly "Its the thought that counts, I'm sure she'll appreciate it. It is hard, I found her a book of old Chinese philosophy. I though she might find it interesting."
"That was a nice idea, show her we aren't all mindless savages."
At this point Archer felt he had to speak. "I think she's figured that out already."
"So what did you get her captain?"
"Oh, nothing very interesting." The truth was, he was slightly embarrassed to show the others what he'd bought. While on shore leave some time ago he'd found an odd necklace in a marketplace. It was a deep blue stone on a fine chain and when he saw it, something about it had made him think of her. It seemed a little stupid now, he'd never seen her wear any adornments. Vulcans probably thought them frivolous. For some reason it was very important to him that she liked it.
Several hours later, a good three quarters of the crew were gathered in the messhall, exchanging gifts and generally having a good time. He craned his neck looking for T'Pol but there was no sign of her. He knew she wasn't on duty right now so she was probably still in her quarters. He decided to go and look for her. She should be there. Somehow it didn't seem right without her. When he entered her quarters he found her working diligently on some planetary analysis. She looked up as he entered. "Hiding away in your quarters I see."
"Vulcans don't hide, I have work that needs doing. No one else on the ship seems to be doing any."
"Everyone needs a break once in a while, come down to the messhall with everyone else."
"Why does it matter so much if I choose not to attend."
"No one should be all alone on Christmas. Come with me." She raised an eyebrow pointedly.
"It is not my festival, I do not belong there."
"T'Pol, I'm not going to make you come if you don't want to. But you're a part of this crew and we'd all love you to be there, especially me. You wouldn't be intruding. Please T'Pol."
She sighed and looked up. "Very well, but only for a short time." He smiled and held out an arm for her. She took it gingerly and they both left the room.
T'Pol stared at the gifts she'd been given. The others hovered, uncertainly, waiting for a response.
"Don't, don't you like them T'Pol." Hoshi asked nervously. Voicing what they'd all been thinking.
"Of course, Its just...I was aware of this custom but I did not realize I would be included. I'm afraid I did not return the favor." Archer almost laughed with relief, so that was all, she was embarrassed that she hadn't got them anything. Mostly T'Pol acted so strangely, so unlike what he was used to. But occasionally she would surprise him by behaving almost like a human.
"That's alright T'Pol, you don't have to get us anything. I don't mind."
The others nodded their agreement. "I will." She said decisively. "You will just have to wait a little longer." With that she turned and left the room.
Trip grinned, "Well that went better than I expected."
Archer was still staring after her. "Is anyone else wondering what presents from a Vulcan will be like?"
A couple of days later, the group entered the bridge to find a small pile of parcels sitting on a table. Trip picked one up and glanced at the label "Yup, they're from T'Pol." And he impatiently began tearing into his. This was the signal for the others to begin as well. As Archer came up to the table he suddenly realized that there were only three gifts, nothing for him. He stood staring at the empty table, a sinking feeling in his stomach. Stupid to be upset at something like that, why on earth should it matter that his first officer had not given him a Christmas present. But in some strange, indefinable way, it did matter. He didn't understand why he had been left out. Confused, he slipped silently out of the room, as the others enthused over their gifts. First he went to her quarters, but to his surprise she wasn't there. Next he tried engineering, the gym, sickbay, she was nowhere to be found. Then it hit him, cursing himself for not thinking of it sooner he headed back up to the captain's messhall.
He found her sitting in the dim light, staring out into space. He noticed, with great pleasure that she was wearing the pendent he gave her. She glanced up at him with a faint, not quite smile. Her eyes sparkled with the reflected lights and he was reminded again how extraordinarily beautiful she was.
"They seemed to like your presents."
She nodded. "I expected them to."
"I was just wondering why I wasn't included."
"I thought you said you didn't want anything." She said innocently.
He rolled his eyes. "I'm just an illogical human, remember, you shouldn't listen to a word I say."
"To tell the truth I was unsure what to give you. Is there anything you would like?"
He had to fight down a sudden desire to say 'Yes, I want you, that's all I want!' Why was he thinking these thoughts, she was Vulcan, damn it and his subordinate and there was no way she was flirting with him. He was sure she could tell what he was thinking; tell from his ragged breathing and his suddenly averted eyes and his silence. But she persisted, moving even closer
"If you could have whatever you wanted, what would it be?" Whatever he wanted, did she have any idea what she was doing to him? How strongly tempted he was? He backed away slightly, trying to think of something safe to say. "Well...intergalactic peace and a Warp seven engine would do to start off with."
She raised one eyebrow inquiringly. "I think that may be beyond my power captain. You may have to settle for something a little smaller." With that she stepped forward slightly and placed a soft kiss on his lips. She pulled away almost instantly and turned around. She paused for a second at the doorway and turned to look at him. "Merry Christmas Captain." She said with another half smile, then fled leaving him speechless. He shook his head in disbelief. If he tried for a thousand years he would never understand Vulcans.