Christmas is Christmas!
Elucidations: 1. You can read this story even if you haven’t read my other fics, but, in my mind, it comes before “Destiny,” which comes before “Honeymoon,” which comes before “Honeymoon Morning,” which comes before “Honeymoon Evening,” which comes before “Ulysses.” (Huff!)
2. In order to better understand my thought, I entreat you to think of two things: a) Do you remember when T’Les tells T’Pol that her emotions always were near the surface? Well, in my opinion this is absolutely true! T’Pol isn’t an “ordinary” Vulcan. She is T’Pol! B)Do you remember when Archer tells T’Pol that her life is difficult, under the bombardment of human emotions, even before they reach the Expanse? T’Pol replies (with a strange face) that she gotten used to living with them. Mmmh… I think her words hide a great deal of unexpressed things.
Genre: Romance, yet once again sweet . . . very, very sweet.
Summary: The first frissons of the heart, in the "magic" of the Christmas Night. With a meddling Phlox and a clever Hoshi. And a Malcolm who begins to understand that Hoshi can be not only a translator. As for the Captain, well . . . what do you want? He is who he is.
Spoilers: Please, don't be angry! Once more! Always the same story: all and nothing. Many suggestions stolen here and there.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is owned by Paramount, not me. No infringement intended, no profit made.
Notes: The words in italics between (*___*) represent T’Pol’s thoughts (Always the same refrain!). But there is a novelty. Trip also thinks! His thoughts are between these marks: (*___*). Oh… there aren’t too many of his thoughts, but you must understand: he is a man of action; contemplation is not his forte (at least that is what T’Pol believes.)
Thanks (much thanks): To justTrip’n, for helping me express myself in a language that is not my first language and for her immense patience, her ability to read my thoughts, and her endless sweetness. (And yet always the same refrain!!).
December, 24, 2151, Christian Earth calendar.
It is the evening of December 24.
For the crew, the coming night is a special night. They call it . . . Christmas Eve.
The usual behaviour, emotional and irrational, displayed by Humans seems heightened in proximity to this . . . how do they refer to it? . . . festivity.
Not even the Captain is immune—which isn’t too strange, considering that such behaviour is typical of his whole species. At my request, the captain volunteers to explain this . . . phenomena:
“Very well, T'Pol. This is the first Christmas on Enterprise.”
He says this at breakfast, while smiling. Humans, I’ve learned over this year, are often smiling, for anything and everything; and equally they cry, for anything and everything.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I said this is the first Christmas on Enterprise.”
“I heard you perfectly, as I am perfectly aware that for many Humans this . . . festivity . . . is deeply meaningful. I supposed you might want to elaborate.”
“Hey there! T’Pol!” The Chief Engineer has just interrupted the Captain, without respect and without a second thought. As he does with everyone, . . . he is emotive, enthusiastic, and unrestrainable.
I look at him, raising my eyebrow, in silent reproach and question.
He swallows a mouthful hard; as is his habit, he was eating and speaking at the same time (*and, who knows, maybe also thinking?*)
He looks at the Captain, who, as is his habit, is smiling with complicity at the Commander without the feeblest shadow of offence.
Reassured, the Chief Engineering turns his eyes to me, smiling broadly with one of his typical smiles.
(*One of those charming smiles, which . . . but what . . . am I . . . !?!*)
I must be vigilant. Human patterns of thinking seem to be nearly contagious. I need more meditation.
(*Even if, I must admit, there is definitely something captivating in the Commander’s expression. . . But . . . enough now!*)
I mentally shake myself, attempting to throw off these bizarre thoughts and . . . sensations swirling in my head . . . as frequently occurs when the Commander comes to mind.
And, I don't understand why, the Commander comes often to my mind*).
In the meantime I am mulling over his words of the morning, while his teasing smile is becoming warmer.
(*And more difficult to ignore . . .But . . . again?*)
“Tonight, T'Pol, the crew will gather to sing carols and celebrate the joy of the season. We all exchange gifts, wish each other health and happiness. Everyone express’n their friendship and mutual affection. Yeah, it’s all very emotional. That part’d be a hardship for you, but I’m guess’n you could brave this difficulty in order to learn about our holiday. Maybe even share these moments with us?”
Now his smile is mocking and challenging. Very . . . irritating.
So irritating, that I have found myself retorting in a way and a tone… not very Vulcan, following an illogical impulse.
(*And it is not the first time that he induces me to follow illogical impulses, as it happened with that pecan pie.*).
And again I don’t understand why.
“I hardly doubt I am able to understand what can be understood by you. And, anyway, it is my clear duty, as a science officer and as a Vulcan observer of this ship, to look into behavioural dynamics of the crew, so . . . ”
“So, in other words, you are telling us you will join us tonight, in our party, in order . . . to study our human behaviours and rituals?”
The Commander' smile has become a mischievous grin, if possible, yet more irritating.
(*And . . . warmer, and more . . . alluring . . . and . . . yet more . . . difficult to ignore . . . Once more! Here I go again! *).
“Commander, I . . .”
The Captain . . . fortunately . . . has interrupted the sharp . . . illogical . . . comment I was going to say.
“Enough. Both you two.”
“T'Pol, Commander Tucker and I”—the Captain was looking at the Commander with a sidelong warning glance—“would very much like it if you would join us and the crew tonight for our celebrations. It’s an opportunity to learn about our traditions. Besides, seeing you at a party will help the crewmen feel less distant from you, less . . . intimidated by your presence. No offence.”
By now the die had been cast, speaking with one of the colourful idioms of the Commander, the irreverent and derisory grin of whom is now absolutely unrestrained.
(*And yet even more . . . difficult to ignore . . . And again! What’s happening to me?*).
Surely emotions which permeate the ship in this peculiar . . . feast day. . . are provoking strange effects in me.
Really I need more meditation. All the more, considering that the consequence of my . . . irrational . . . behaviour of the morning is that now I am on my way, to join the Captain, the Commander, and a mess of women and men of the crew, to celebrate together this . . . Christmas Eve.
The . . . party . . . is in the Mess Hall, which for this occasion has been made over into a “party room” under the guide of Ensign Hoshi Sato and, obviously, of Commander Charles Tucker the Third.
I am approaching the door.
Noises escape from inside.
Forcing back an illogical flick of trepidation, I open the door and go in.
The room is decorated with festoons, running along the walls.
Ornaments of all sorts, made with lightweight materials, are hanging from the ceiling, slightly and sweetly moving, simply from the passage of people beneath.
It is a spectacular display of dark greens and of bright greens, of reds that span their full spectrum, of gold and of silver.
But the general appearance is not badly garish or coarsely flamboyant.
Rather, the dim lighting is emphasizing a certain atmosphere of... I don't know... of... sweetness? . . . of . . . intimacy?
The tables have been moved against the walls and are prepared, richly, with every kind of food and of drink, though no spirits, I notice, except for some bottles of sparkling wine, that, I understand, will have to be used, for the custom of the toast.
I also realize that there is a good big deal of candies, among which, and most importantly . . . Pecan Pie. And also some dishes exclusively vegetarian, just so. And—I can't help, but feel a sort of . . . un-Vulcan-like surprise, mixed with a bit of equally un-Vulcan-like appreciative enjoyment—a few of those dishes are . . . Vulcan dishes.
Now I understand why the Commander advised those coming to the party to skip their lunch and dinner.
Surely Chef must have had his work cut out for him, but I have no doubt that Ensign Sato and the Commander were helping him significantly.
Well . . . Likely Ensign Sato was helping him, whereas the Commander likely irritated him, claiming to direct operations while getting into to all sorts of tricks.
In a corner of the room it sits majestically: a big . . . yes... it's a fir tree. What do they call it . . .. Ah yes. The Christmas tree. The most known Christmas symbol and, I believe, the most loved.
How Mister Tucker—it could only have been him—managed to build that tree—well... as the same Mister Tucker puts it . . . only God can know. But, honestly, I cannot deny that he is resourceful. Undoubtedly he is a man of genius, as an engineer.
The people are crowding round the tree, chatting cheerfully in quiet voices and beautifying its branches with every type of ornamental objects.
A weird, glittery handmade object, styled in a human depiction of a star, is displayed to great effect at the top.
It slowly twirls, spreading all around feeble dazzlements of coloured light.
Surely another one of the "small engineering works" of Mister Tucker—these are Commander's words with which he alludes to a great deal of strange structures, absolutely and illogically useless, so often coming out from his hands and from his mind. And, I must admit, so absolutely and illogically . . . attractive.
It is built with rare mastery.
It . . . enchants the eye.
It provokes a . . . a feeling . . . of . . . serenity.
Of childish . . . wonder.
I am standing, motionless, while observing all this, when a familial voice, with an equally familial jeering tone, draws my attention.
“Well, Sub-Commander! I’ll be damned! You’re actually here! You’ve come to join us!”
(*Well, well . . .I never thought I’d see her ass in here . . .heh! . . or as Malcom would say, her “awfully nice bum” *)
The tone of my reply is quiet, and, against my intentions, also . . . chilly.
(*How does this man always compel me to forget my Vulcan-being? *)
“I don't see any logic in committing to an undertaking, and not honouring that commitment. Humans may act in this way. Certainly NOT Vulcans.”
The Commander smiles again. Again that . . . . how could he tell? . . .“damned” smile—and he doesn’t even get agitated.
I decide to make it worse.
(*I do not understand why I can’t manage to contain the irritation that the Commander is capable often, much too often, of arousing in me; also arousing often, much too often, my childish, illogical, reaction.*)
“And I don't think, Commander, this manner of speaking is suitable for this occasion, if I am not mistaken in my knowledge of the holiday.”
(*Damned presumptuous woman! I hate her presumption, her condescension. In fact, I loathe everything about her, from her feet to those… those… damned tips of her ears! I wonder how they look when they are blushing?*)
A moment of annoyed surprise from Mister Tucker,—and I cannot deny that I am experiencing a sharp pleasure from the fact that I managed to irritate him—but then his face is lighting with a mischievous . . . nearly evil sneer. — (*And now what is this sensation in my . . . in my gut?*).
“Your ears look good when they are blushing with rage!”
And noticing that he has hit home, his face’s expression is becoming even more wickedly amused, as he openly gawks at the phenomena I am feeling: that the tips of my ears now are . . . warm, because they are . . . blushing . . . owing to his words!
(*Damn! I did it! She is blushing! The tips of her ears are blushing! Well, well . . . how attractive they are… those blushing pointed ears!*)
My voice is frozen venom.
“Commander. Vulcans . . .”
But he cuts me short, putting up his hands as a comical token of capitulation.
(*I am a dog! Yes! An idiotic, stupid dog! Here she is, despite her vulcanness. She is here to share our fest with us and all I can think to do is try to irritate her! To make blush! For Pete’s sake! How . . . alluring is her face, when she is flushing from . . . anger!*)
“No, no, Sub-Commander! Please stop! I know. Vulcans don’t feel anger and surely they don’t blush! You are right and I am a dog! I surrender: I’m hoisting the white flag!”
Then, he lowers the arms, while his features soften. I perceive a change and his smile and his eyes have become different. They appear apologetic,… sweeter, almost . . . tender? They are . . . friendly? Or… or what?
(*How beautiful she is. But… What am I thinking? A Vulcan! A Vulcan? Maybe Malcolm is right. *)
“Really, T’Pol! I am sorry. You are right, as usual, and I am,” He makes a soft, warming chuckle, “a dog.”
A pause. A deep, gorgeous. chuckle. – (*gorgeous? . . . Meditation, yes! A lot of it! *).
“Listen. I’ll make a proposal: tonight we lay down our arms. You have agreed to share our feast with us and the least I can do is show you what we Humans mean by . . . Christmas spirit.”
“There's absolutely no war underway between us, Commander.”
My voice is perfectly quiet and controlled, like every other Vulcan’s voice must be; but I can’t help . . . feeling . . . yes, feeling . . . something. . . . I don’t know . . . something . . . soft? . . . inside me . . . And the Commander senses it, with his . . . queer instinct. I . . . I can . . . perceive it . . . plainly.
(*What is this look? This expression? This . . . softness? Coming from her?!)
“Anyway, ” I go on, decidedly less chilly, “I appreciate your offer. I will also try, myself, if not to share, at least to recognize and to understand this Christmas spirit.”
“Very well!” And he smiles, warmly . . . again.
(*This smile! His smile! T’Pol!... Meditation! Yes, meditation!*)
(*Stop it! Trip, you’re not only a dog. You are . . . you are . . . How would it be, if her face were smiling? Damned pretty I bet, judging by . . . those beautiful pointed ears, and . . . Trip, enough!*)
“Now please excuse me, but… duty calls!”
He winks at me. — (*But why do I find this gesture . . . attractive?*).
“I can’t leave Hoshi with all the chores. Besides.. I have something to get ready, something . . .” Another wink. “well, you’ll see!”
I raise my eyebrow. My usual gesture, when I must cope with a very un-Vulcan-like situation.
Because that “you will see” frankly stirs in me a certain level of . . . uneasiness.
(*Meditation! When all this is ended, most definitely a great deal of additional meditation is required! *)
The Commander laughs, the . . . captivating sound of his laughter reverberating through the air.
(*Captivating? Yes, definitely: a lot of meditation! *)
He bends his head slightly in greeting, and, pivoting on his heels, he mixes in with other crewmen.
I observe him while talking quietly to some people for a little short time.
Then he heads for the door and exits the room.
To take care of his . . . duties, I think.
What are these duties and what will be their results . . ? Clearly, as he said, I will see.
The Captain has joined us.
"Please, no formalities tonight. Tonight we are here, together, to celebrate Christmas Eve. So, no “Captain” tonight. Tonight, only carols and... candies!”
He notices my presence and my perplexed expression at his words.
“Oh, T’Pol . . . “ He clears his throat, “I’m pleased to see you. Well! . . .” He smiles.
(*It’s a fact that his smile doesn’t operate the same way as that of the Commander. But why does the Commander’s smile operate in such a way? And why only . . . his smile?*)
“Don’t worry. I . . . I am always the Captain. I simply wanted the crew to feel at ease.”
I raise my eyebrow.
“Vulcans don’t worry, Captain.”
“Yeah, sure. Ahem . . . Would you like something to drink or to eat?”
“No Captain. I don’t need anything.”
“Okay, T’Pol. I won’t insist. But as for myself, tonight, I plan to commit some sins of gluttony.”
He winks to me.
(*Not even his winking operates like that of the Commander. *)
“Opportunities such as these don't happen often, on Enterprise.”
“Definitely they don’t, Captain.” I look pointedly at the sumptuously prepared tables. “The Chef has excelled himself, though I’m guessing it was at the instigation of Ensign Sato and Commander Tucker."
(*No. Undoubtedly his smile doesn’t operate as that of the Commander.*) “Well, of course! Sometimes I think I should attempt to moderate Trip’s enthusiasm.”
My eyebrow get raised once more.
“Frankly, Captain, I have my doubts about the possibility of moderating the Commander’s enthusiasm, even slightly.”
This time the Captain bursts out laughing.
(*And his laugh absolutely is unlike that of the Commander. That laugh so surrounding and . . . But what illness do I have his evening? Could it be . . . this Christmas? Meditation, yes. Meditation! A whole lot. *)
“T’Pol, If I didn't know you, I could think were are joking.”
“Captain . . .”
“Vulcans don’t joke, I know. So then, your assertion is completely . . . logical.”
“Very well, T’Pol. Excuse me, but I want to indulge those . . . sins of gluttony, I mentioned earlier. I hope tonight you can learn about our human behaviours and rituals, as Trip suggested. See you later.”
I nod and the Captain moves away to join the others.
I head towards a chair in the background and sit down, to observe the small crowd of Humans, who laugh, chat, eat, drink, and act excited and… I don’t know… I think… happy.
“May I sit next to you, Sub-Commander?”
Lieutenant Reed addresses me with the usual tone of formality.
Undoubtedly, knowing how reserved his character—how “authentically British” Trip . . . (*Trip?*) . . . . the Commander! would say—I suppose he is slightly uncomfortable in the peculiarly frivolous atmosphere of this night.
I think he is looking for someone equally ill at ease, so as to mitigate his anxiety by sharing this feeling with another.
But I am Vulcan.
I can’t be ill at ease.
Logic and control are my way.
I can’t share feelings, or anything else.
I . . .
Well . . .
Then again . . . if I truly wanted to understand human behaviours and rituals connected with this Christmas and to recognize this Christmas spirit, like I told Tri… (*!?! *)… the Commander, then it would be . . . illogical for me to withhold my. . support . . . from the Lieutenant.
“Of course, Lieutenant.”
He nods and sits down.
“Well sub-Commander, I hope all this is of some help for crew morale, because, frankly, I don't see any other usefulness.”
I look at him, raising my eyebrow.
“Do you,” I weigh up my words, “not sympathize with . . . this Christmas spirit, Lieutenant?”
His eyes seem . . . surprised?
“Oh . . . ehm . . . I . . .”
My look is attentive.
“Of course I sympathize with it! I Simply . . . I don't believe all this . . . parade . . . furthers the spirit of our mission. And of course it is more difficult under these circumstances, with all this ruckus, to keep an eye on security . . .”
“Do you really consider all this a . . . parade, Lieutenant?”
I raise my head to give a slightly reproachful look to Ensign Sato, who has come up on us silently and interrupted two senior officers.
She realizes her improper behaviour and blushes obviously, according with her usual, very human, demeanour.
“Oh, I . . . I am sorry! Sub-Commander, Lieutenant, please forgive me. I . . . well, maybe I . . . I’ve already drunk a little too much!”
“No alcoholic drink was used so far, Ensign.”
My reply is logical, concise, and… cold, like Vulcan etiquette would suggest for this situation. But, I don’t know why, I . . . I feel . . . I feel . . . guilty . . . because of my words and my tone.
(*Is it . . . Christmas? . . . that is driving me to think and behave so strangely? Maybe the Commander can clarify to me what is happening ... The Commander? Why do I always think of him for help? *)
Well, I must admit, I went to him before, following Phlox’s advice. And, in fact, he helped me make the right choice.
He is . . . frank . . . and . . . honest . . . and . . . sincere . . . and . . .
(*And again! But why he is always in my head?*). I am virtually shaking my head, to chase away these illogical thoughts, and in meantime, following a strange inner urge, and I speak again, trying to soften my previous sentence:
“I ... think it is more probable that you are influenced by this... Christmas Spirit, Ensign, which, if I am not mistaken, can be fairly blamed for leading Humans into behaviour that is less than strictly proper.”
The Ensign’ face displays an incredulous, stunned look, and with the corner of my eye, I see the same look on the face of Lieutenant Reed. And, honestly, I too, I . . . am . . . surprised at my . . . at my . . . un-Vulcan-like . . . inappropriate . . . conduct.
(*The Commander will have to pay for having dragged me into this situation!*)
Suddenly I realize the course of my thoughts.
If I was Human and I was speaking, surely I would have become speechless, literally and figuratively, because of my incredible demeanour.
But . . . fortunately . . . I am Vulcan, but it is obvious that I am a Vulcan who needs, like I’ve already noted, . . . . a little bit more meditation.
(*Yes! I believe I should. In order to push the Commander out from the middle of my brain!*)
While I am trying to push back this last thought into the depths of my mind, I hear the Lieutenant clearing his throat and beginning to speak, patently in a muddle. It is plainly obvious. He has sprung to his feet, and now is standing, stiff.
“I… I don’t consider this as... a... a parade. I regret my words. I know a great deal of effort was profusely supplied by you and Commander Tucker . . . in order to achieve this. So the crewmen may enjoy a real Christmas Eve.”
There is a strange expression on the Lieutenant’s face.
It is showing guilt, without doubt, but also something else . . . something I am incapable of wholly understanding.
And this expression is manifestly directed towards the Ensign.
She, too–I see it easily–is noticing the unusual . . . softness? . . . he displays with his talk and his conduct, and, she is clearly reassured and . . . content— I think. She smiles radiantly.
And a smile is also appearing on Mister Reed face, a smile not forced, or even restrained: exactly the opposite of the smile he typically smiles—on the rare occasions that he does smile.
Practically forgetful of me, he goes on with the speech, still smiling and… still soft.
“I was simply meaning to say that I am concerned about ship and crew security under these particular circumstances. It is possible that this . . . Christmas Spirit could reduce attention levels and… Oh, don’t mind me! I’m always the same incorrigible British soldier!”
“This does you credit!”
The Ensign say this all in one breath, flushing quite plainly.
Then, she openly smiles and goes on.
“I . . . I believe you are right. And I am sure it would be better if you were seeing . . . personally . . . to this task . . . of protecting the crewmen. I think certain members of the crew might be very pleased . . . to have your protection.”
I am trying to understand this strange exchange of words between Mister Reed and Ensign Sato and my uncertainty increases upon hearing the Lieutenant speaking with a low voice, in a tone absolutely unusual to him, a strange . . . delighted . . . expression on his face.
“I think I should follow your . . . suggestion. I believe I will be reviewing security video shortly, . . .
“Hmm . . . security video.” The Ensign appears mesmerized.
“Say, . . . in the Armory?”
Another smile from the Ensign, then she nods, lightly, in greeting to both of us, and turns around, making for the other woman and men of the crew gathered in the mess-hall.
Lieutenant Reed stands motionless a moment, following the Ensign with his eyes.
Then, as if suddenly recollecting the place and my presence, he quickly turns towards me, speaking to me with a strange voice.
“I hope you may excuse me, Sub-Commander, but,” There is a now a hint of smugness? in his smile, “I must fulfil my . . . obligations.”
At my nod, he bows lightly, clicking his heels, and, right after, he rapidly reaches a position next to Ensign Sato, among the other crewmen.
My gaze stays on him for a while.
I am pensive.
I don’t understand.
What does it mean, what I’ve just seen and heard?
I wish the Commander were here with me. He would surely be capable of explaining . . .
(*Oh, for… for Surak’s sake! This is like a drill into my mind! *)
I . . . I had no experience.
An involuntary tremor of fear . . . goes through me at the sudden, disgusting memory of Tolaris.
I am . . . a virgin.
I never have passed through pon-far.
I never had intercourse.
I don’t know personally what may happen between a woman and a man when they . . . when they . . .
But . . . the knowledge I picked up during my life and above all . . . what I have learned from my studies and from what I . . . saw on Vulcan and . . . human databases suggest to me that something . . . what do they call it? . . romantic . . . has just passed between the Lieutenant and the Ensign.
How is it possible?
They are so different, so distant one from the other in their behaviours, in their ways of thinking, in their attitudes...
It was like if the Commander and I . . .
I almost startle as this unexpected thought seizes my brain, accompanied by a vivid sensation of the touch of the Commander’s fingers on my ears—a memory of that day in the Decon Chamber.
And, for the second time on this . . . Christmas Eve, I . . . feel my the tips of my ears . . . becoming warm, from blushing!
I attempt to breath calm and steady, in order to regain my usual self-control.
(*Absolutely! It seems that human patterns of thinking and… and also of action…are… contagious! I need more, more . . . meditation!*)
I . . .wonder . . .
Maybe I truly fell ill. Maybe this contagion is real. Maybe I need Doctor Phlox. Maybe . . .
I almost lose my temper hearing the Doctor speaking to me.
(*Speaking of the devil . . . *)
Stronger than me, the Commander's colloquialisms run rampant in my mind!
(*What must I do? What . . . to clear my brain? *)
I look at the Doctor, displaying the most deadpan face with consummate expertise.
I hope . . .
(*Fortunately the low light prevents him from noticing the... colour of my ears!*)
Doctor Phlox is standing in front of me, his face broadening with one of those enormous smiles of him, his hands full, holding both a drink and a slice of . . . pecan pie.
He cheerfully goes on with his talk. “It isn’t good to stay alone tonight, Sub-Commander. I think you have acted opportunely, resolving to join the crew on this peculiar night. But,” His smile becomes larger, if possible, “I understand how it could be difficult for a . . . Vulcan to share . . . human companionship. Especially during this . . .very . . . emotional . . . feast-night. So, considering you and I are the sole non-Humans on this vessel, I thought I might keep you company a little, if you wish, and also bring you something to eat and drink.”
I raise my eyebrow to him.
His smile is nearly is cutting his face into halves.
“A cup of tea, Sub-Commander, obviously chamomile tea, and . . .”
“Pecan pie, Doctor?”
“Oh, . . . *ahem* . . . yes, . . . certainly! My apologies. I forgot Vulcans don’t like challenging experiences with new foods. Long ago the Commander talked me into trying this pie, and now I quite enjoy it. ”
“It is apparent that the Commander is capable of being very convincing, when he wants.” My eyebrow is raised a little more.
At the Doctor’s puzzled expression, I limit myself to indicating a nearby chair.
“Please, sit down, Doctor. I am pleased to share your companionship and I accept willingly your offered drink and that pecan pie. I too . . . enjoy that confection.”
Phlox’s looks even more puzzled at my words, but suddenly a sparkle appears in his eyes: he is unequivocally amused.
Finally he nods, giving me the cup of tea and the slice of pie, and then sits down.
“Well, T’Pol. This . . . Christmas Eve is . . . intriguing, isn’t it?”
I try to show my best stern look, carefully pondering my reply.
“It is undoubtedly peculiar, Doctor. Humans appear, if possible, yet more . . . human, tonight.”
The sparkle of amusement in his eyes seems to shine more vividly at my words.
I feel a flash of . . . apprehension.
“Do you specifically refer to one or . . . two particular humans, Sub-Commander?”
I feel the flash of apprehension nearly becoming an uneasy light.
I feel ill at ease with this talk.
I don’t understand the Doctor’s intentions or what he’s leading to with these remarks.
“What do you mean, exactly, Doctor?” — My eyebrow is raised as it usually is in these circumstances.
“Oh, nothing, T’Pol. Only . . . Well! I noticed the unusual behaviour of Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Sato. Didn’t you?”
As Tri---*SIGH!*— the Commander might say, with one of his colourful idioms, Doctor Phlox is baiting the hook for the fish.
And I am the fish!
And for good measure a fish utterly willing to swallow the bait complete with the hook! - (*Enough! Why do I use his idioms! Please, Commander! Leave me alone! *).
But my curiosity and something else, I . . . I don’t know what, compels me to reply to the Doctor.
“I . . . I was witness to a strange exchange of words between them. I’ve never been skilled at reading human demeanour and, as Vulcan, I can’t be sure, but…”
I could believe his smile has became slightly . . . mischievous.
“But . . . it sounds as they have displayed a sort of . . . a sort of . . .”
“Reciprocal attraction, T’Pol?”
I watch the Doctor, raising my eyebrow from above the border of my cup.
His look is like that of the cat when playing with the mouse.
And this time the Commander's figure of speech . . ..—I sigh mentally— fits like a glove.
Why is Doctor Phlox playing this way.
Why do I feel I’m the mouse?
And why don't I break from this play?
What . . . am I looking for?
I reply with low voice.
He doesn’t give up. He continues his pursuit:
“Do you find this strange, T’Pol?”
Now his eyes are fixed upon me, and I feel his look digging into my mind.
What . . . does he want . . . from me?
What . . . do . . . I . . . want . . . from him?
I gaze at him.
“They are… different one from the other, Doctor. They never evidenced any potential for . . . a reciprocal attraction. They are . . . far from one another, disparate. The one is the . . . opposite of the other.”
His look now is nearly penetrating.
“This isn’t true, T’Pol.”
Now he no longer is smiling.
“They share many things, not the least of which: the fact that they are both . . . Humans.”
I can’t help startling.
I feel his gaze upon me.
“But I do know of others about whom really one can say, the one is the opposite of the other.”
I blink, unconsciously, at his statement.
He stares intently at me, again smiling, with a smile which arouses a sort of interior, unseen turmoil, inside me.
He speaks again.
“And, on the other hand, in love’s play . . . this all means nothing.”
My inner tremor grows, and I can nearly feel in my bones his next words:
“Humans say, and I believe they are right, that . . . opposites attract.”
I am speechless.
I . . .
A rational, Vulcan woman.
I am speechless because of the explicit allusion of his sentence.
Absurd, unreal, lacking in sense and in logic . . .
And I am struck silent.
I am incapable of finding words to refute him.
Or even word to ask what he means.
(*It is this Christmas! It’s so! Without a doubt! It is the weird atmosphere of this . . . Night Before Christmas. It is these human emotions, excited by this . . . Christmas Spirit, these powerful emotions I sense around me. This is what is has been making my head spin with surreal thoughts this entire day, from morning till this night! This Christmas is the cause of my un-Vulcan-like thinking! Because of Trip . . . —Oh my…!— because of his party! Phlox’s absurd suggestions have invaded my katra; I am unable to logically counter his foolish suggestion; to make his words roll off me like water! It is the… emotional, human Spirit of this Christmas has emboldened me to think that… that I . . I . . . and the Commander . . . *)
“Merry Christmas to everyone!”
The southern and charming . . .(*It is Christmas Eve! That’s all. In a day this will pass, I am sure . . . *) . . . the southern accent of the unabated object of my thoughts over this night abruptly interrupts the whirlwind my mind is within an micron of becoming—(*It is these human emotions! Yes! I simply need further meditation! Only that! *)—I am almost overwhelmed.
The Doctor's attention is drawn to the source of the voice.
My head, like those of everybody, turns towards the door.
Tri . . .
(*Okay! I’ll ignore that! Evidently there is no remedy, for now.*)
Mister Tucker–(*Yes! Mister Tucker!*)–is standing in the middle of doorway, smiling broadly; upon his head a red conical and floppy hat with a white band of fur round the base and, at the end a little ball, also white and of fur, laying upon his left shoulder; on his face a . . . white, false, flowing . . . beard; and upon his right shoulder an enormous sack, apparently made with rough cloth and held by him with both his hands.
“OH OH OH!!!”
He laughs with a strange and hearty laughter, in a deep baritone tone, and everyone, hearing him laughing in this way, is dissolving into laughter in his turn, perfectly understanding what he is doing.
And me too . . . I understand.
He is mimicking that Christmas personage, beloved by Humans. That . . . Father Christmas.
And in this . . .emotional, queer Christmas eve, at the sight of him and his action, I must struggle against an irrational urge to laugh, openly and loudly, amused, like the human crew.
While broadly smiling —(*How easily recognizable is his smile, even beneath that false beard!*) — he speaks.
“Guys, ya’l’l know I’m the unofficial Chief of Crew Moral. So, with Captain’s permission, Father Christmas is here, giving out your presents!”
He slowly moves forward, halting near the Captain.
The two men smile to each other.
Then the Commander takes off the sack from his shoulder, with effort, and lowers it to the floor.
“Okay, people! Come on over! It wasn’t easy or pretty work, but there’s a small present for each one of you. The Captain and I hope y’all enjoy it. Both he and I were thinking a Christmas far from home would be more bearable, with a little HO HO HO and above all — He winks, grinning — some presents.”
His voice grows louder.
“And as for those who can’t be here this shift, tell ‘em not to worry. They too will get their share of Christmas Spirit!”
So this was . . . the something that he had to get ready, the something . . .that I should see.
I observe the women and the men, laughing and glad, approach the Captain and the Commander, who has now opened the sack, scattering its contents across the ground. Then he removes the hat and beard, chuckling.
I observe the Captain, who is openly smiling and clapping his friend on the shoulder.
I observe the Commander.
I observe his face–(*His attractive face; it is pointless… illogical… to deny it.*)–while he is chuckling and turning his head, surrounded by his comrades.
And . . . and . . . I . . .feel something strange, warm, within me.
Something I’ve never experienced.
I feel me nearer to these people, their thoughts, their behaviours.
Their fears, their hopes, their desires . . .
Their weaknesses . . .
Their strengths . . .
I look intently at the Commander.
I stare at him steadily. This goes unnoticed in the commotion. The Doctor’s eyes are turned to the scene in front of us.
And suddenly my thoughts over this day no longer seem so weird to me, so absurd, so illogical.
I continue to observe the Commander.
His blue eyes shine.
His smile sparkles in the dimness.
He is . . . handsome.
My highly developed sense of smell catches his . . . powerful scent.
The same that I picked up the first time we were introduced . . .
The same that strikes me every time we cross paths . . .
Fragrant, unique, only his own . . .
He is the opposite of me.
He is Human.
I am Vulcan.
I am the opposite of him.
(* . . . Humans say that . . . opposites attract . . .*)
I open my eyes wide, abruptly realizing the enormity of this thought; the impossible, dangerous . . . sinful, shameful, disgraceful . . . path my mind has just taken.
I shake hard my head, to chase away these foolish, mad . . .things . . . from my brain, while again, by now the third time this Christmas Eve, I feel my ear tips... warm!
(*Never again! Never again will I fall in such a trap! No, there will only be one Christmas Eve for me! Absolutely never again!*)
Doctor’s voice calls back me to the reality.
“Well, T’Pol”—Luckily, he sounds forgetful of our previous talk—“I believe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if we too approach the other crewmen. After all”– He smiles cheerfully —“you and I are here tonight in order to . . . attentively and scientifically observe and study human traditions.”
I raise my eyebrow, once again, so as to conceal my inner un-Vulcan-like turmoil; grateful, once again, that the dim light is able to hide the colour of my ears.
And even if I feel somewhat . . . somewhat . . . afraid . . . because I have to get closer to . . . the source of my trouble . . . my trepidation . . . in this night permeated by strong feeling and emotions clearly influencing my mind and Vulcan-being. Nevertheless, I must act normally and logically.
So, I nod and, standing up with the Doctor, I follow him towards the Captain, the crewmen and . . Commander Tri . . . Commander Tri . . . Commander Tucker!
People crowd among the great heap of objects poured out from that sack, chatting loud and laughing, cheerful.
They look at, choose, confront each other, and exchange objects amongst themselves with very human confusion.
The Doctor bends down so that he can better observe those manufactured goods.
He collects one of them and stands up, carefully observing it, while turning it in his hands.
He raises his eyes toward me, looking pensive, and shows me what he is holding between his fingers.
It is a little doll, in guise of a man. A stylized man wearing a short overall, with a face displaying a big smile, whose features take after . . . a Denobulan.
I sweep my eyes over the great quantity of small objects, well made, useless… beautiful, each different, one from the other.
Not all of the Christmas presents are as complicated as the little doll held by the Doctor. On the contrary most of them are simple. But at any rate, there are many of them.
I have no doubt that they have been built by Commander Tucker, and I have no doubt that each one of them represents a piece of time taken away from his sleep.
For the women and men of the crew.
It is illogical what he did.
His role demands great responsibility.
His lack of sleep could have jeopardized the ship, although he never has given signs of distraction neither of fatigue, I must admit it.
But that could have happened.
He is an irresponsible man.
He is an illogical man.
He is a man . . .
. . . a man who worked, hard, in secret, so as to make his comrades . . . happy. Yes, this is the exact term.
He worked in order to make their duties less heavy, their homesickness for friends and for relatives more bearable, during a feast so emotionally charged for Humans, without forgetting anyone, not even an alien like the Doctor.
And, who knows — (*I . . . feel an incomprehensible throb of . . . hope.*)—without even forgetting me?
My eyes glance down at those things scattered on the floor, as if searching . . . for what?
I straighten, continuing to think of the Commander and what he has made.
He worked to meet the needs of the others.
(*The needs of the many . . .*)
Surak’s aphorism flashes unexpected through my mind.
It’s strange how unconsciously I have thought of it, applying it to a matter like this and to someone such as the Chief Engineer.
And nevertheless, it applies.
The Commander is always ready for the needs of the others . . . whoever these “others” might be.
(*Like when I asked him for advice . . . *)
Suddenly, another memory strikes me.
(*Or how he helped with that Xyrillian ship, when . . .when he—unintentionally, of course–yes, unintentionally–got pregnant, by that . . . that Xyrillian female, that Ah'len.*)
And now? What is it? This . . . this “something” . . . . strange, unknown . . . inside me? It is painful. A sort of . . . pang . . . in my chest.
“It’s nearly midnight! A toast is required!”
The Captain, claiming the attention of everyone, interrupts the course of my reflections and my memories.
Smiling, he holds a glass with his right hand, lifting it up.
Near him are Lieutenant Reed with . . . Ensign Sato at his side, Ensign Mayweather and . . . Where is the Commander?
“I want to wish a truly merry Christmas to each of you all.”
Among the silence of the little crowd, the Captain’s words resound loudly in the room.
“Not many months ago we began our journey and a lot of things have already happened. This is our first Christmas on Enterprise and it will be not the last. I hope the wonder of the discovery, which is the essence and the soul of our mission, may be sooth pains of homesickness as we think back to loved ones.”
He lifts more his glass.
“To us, to Earth, to our families and to our friends. To our journey. To Enterprise!”
The shout comes out loud from every mouth of the women and the men who are gathered in the mess hall.
Then, each of them, following Captain’s gesture, drinks a sip from his glass, and, immediately after, everyone bursts out laughing and applauding.
“Maybe the Cap’n should be dedicating his toasts not only to Earth."
I turn abruptly at the sound of T . . T . . . (*Tucker's! Tucker's! Tucker's! *) . . . Tucker's voice from behind me.
He stays only a few inches from me, smiling, with . . . that smile, each hand holding a glass of sparkling wine.
Powerful, amplified by his emotions, made stronger by the atmosphere of this Christmas Night, his scent surrounds me . . . inebriating!
I take a step backward, rapidly, almost frantically!
Before . . .before . . . before . . . what?
“Well, T’Pol! I might have mussed my hair with that Santa hat”—his smile and his voice are teasing— “but I’m sure I don’t look that scary!”
I breathe deeply, in attempt to regain my control . . . to ignore his smell.
His smile fades and . . . and . . . concern, I am sure, appears in his eyes.
“T’Pol, are you alright? Do the festivities upset you? Did I . . . did I frighten you?”
With a mighty effort of will, I manage to display my Vulcan deadpan face, raising my chiding eyebrow.
“Commander, Vulcans . . .”
“Oh T’Pol! All right, all right! I well know! Vulcans don’t, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera . . . Pardon me, please!”
Before I can harshly reply — (*But why do I always fall into his bickering-trap? *) — he lifts both his hands, putting up the glasses and smiling — (*Again!*)
“Please, T’Pol.” — His voice is soft. — “I don’t want to argue, tonight. I . . . well . . . I was thinking that . . . uh . . . yes . . . maybe . . . maybe you would like to . . . to share one human custom with . . . with me.”
He stops one moment, uncertain.
Then he speaks again, hasty.
“Obviously, for the sake of your study about human traditions!”
“What . . .”— (*It’s another trap! I know. *) — “what custom, Commander?” — (*And I am going to fall into it! *)
“Would . . . would you like to make a . . . toast with me, to Earth, to . . . Vulcan, and . . . and to friendship between our worlds? And . . “.– His tone lowers, his smile softens, his eyes shine, appealing (*Only his eyes shine in this way! *) “between us?”
I try to speak with a normal voice.
“Commander, Vulcans ordinarily don’t drink spirits and surely they don’t make… toasts.”
“Come on, T’Pol!”
He hands me the one of the glasses.
“I don’t think it’s bad!”
I hesitantly look at his eyes (*which appear almost… pleading… *); then, at the proffered glass, in his hand; then, again at his eyes (*which shine yet more . . . *)
And I fall into the trap.
I reach out to take the glass from his hand.
My fingers encircle the glass, while his fingers are holding it.
They interlock each other, skin against skin.
His touch is warm, soft, despite the callus caused by his job.
Already I’ve felt his skin.
Already I’ve felt this sensation.
Already I’ve savoured it.
Tonight I am unable to deny . . . I am unable to fight . . .
Tonight I am weak.
I prolong the contact.
I hold on a few moments, my fingers intertwined with his.
My skin burning against his.
And then, suddenly, I rouse, realizing what I am doing.
I break our skin-to-skin touch, briskly taking the glass from his hand, burying my thoughts in the deep, without daring to analyze these sensations. I don’t have the . . . courage . . . to do it.
I timidly raise my eyes to his.
He stares back.
His blue eyes are wide, confused, uncertain.
His expression is serious.
I know he wants to understand.
But I do not want him to understand!
Because . . . because . . . there is nothing . . . nothing! . . . to understand!
? (*Tucker, are you crazy? . . . Her? . . . me? . . . US? But . . . her touch . . . it is . . . Oh enough! Where are you going with this, Trip? Stop acting foolish! Vulcans don't do what you’re thinking! Certainly SHE doesn’t! But . . . but... the touch of her skin . . . how smooth, soft, and... sweet... !*) ?
We gaze at each other for a moment.
Then he wags his head and breaks off the silence.
“Well . . . uh . . . I . . . I’m pleased you’ll grant my request.”
His smile has come back, a little fuzzy and uncertain.
And all the more captivating for this reason. (*I can’t . . . I mustn’t . . . go on in this way!*)
I lift up my glass, with a cold expression.
“I believe this gesture is the exact one to accomplish our aim”.
He stares at me, perplexed, for a short time.
Then, he shrugs and openly gives me his best smile.
(*When will this all end? *)
He, too, lifts up his glass.
“Yeah, you are right. This is the exact gesture. And this . . .”—he brings his glass to his mouth—“is the rest of the toast. You must repeat my words, while taking your glass to your lips.”
I ape his gesture, bringing my glass to my mouth.
“To . . . to our friendship!”
I repeat his words.
“To our friendship.”
(*What is this tremble within me? *)
“And now you must take a sip. Like do I.”
He throws back his head, drinking a little bit of wine.
Then, he turns his eyes to me, waiting.
I place my lips upon the border of my glass.
I throw back my head, like he did, and I drink a sip of wine.
Never I have drunk wine.
I feel it to go down my throat.
It is good.
It is fresh and . . . hot.
I slowly straighten my head, moving the glass away from my mouth, and unconsciously I slide the tip of my tongue between my lips, to better savour the taste of the wine.
Then I raise my eyes to him.
He stays motionless.
He is no longer smiling.
His look is fixed upon me.
He stares . . . at my lips.
*God… Goddam! How . . . how plump and mellow are her lips! And, how fragrant and soft they must be! *)
I feel his gaze on my lips.
I feel that my lips are burning.
(*Maybe . . . maybe . . . at New Year’s Midnight I could ask her to share another human custom . . . under a sprig of mistletoe! *)
I half-open my mouth.
I would want . . . I would want. . .
(*Probably the consequence of that request would be she gives me her Vulcan neck pinch. But . . . I think . . . the game is worth the candle! *)
I wish . . .
(* . . . ask for it now! *)
I would want . . .
(* do it . . . Do it now! *)
I shut my mouth all of a sudden.
My eyelids widen and my eyes meet his, his face studies mine, his pupils are dilated.
(*Tucker, you’re nuts! How the hell did I get to this point? The alcohol of course! Remember, already, in Engineering with the staff, and in kitchen with Chef! Think Commander! You’ve had way too much already! Even before this toast!*)
I break off our reciprocal staring.
I lower my eyes briefly, clear my throat, and again I am looking at him. I hope my face appears solemn, as it must be, and . . . also my voice:
“You excelled yourself tonight, Commander.”
He remains yet with his eyes fixed upon mine for a short instant.
Then he awakens and speaks, his voice a little uncertain.
“What do you mean?”
“Your . . . masquerade, Commander, was noteworthy. I believe people recognized its value. And also” — I point with my head and my eyes to the Christmas presents on the floor, by now only few objects — “the value of these efforts here, in order that your crew might better feel . . . the Christmas spirit.”
He makes a soft giggle.
(*Soft . . . Yes . . . It is soft.*)
“Well, T’Pol. I am glad you appreciated all that.”
“In light the of the fact that Humans particularly seem to welcome unexpected acts of kindnesses, and considering the great deal of pleasure displayed by the crewmen tonight and the likely positive effect on their performances, it is probable that, as consequence of your actions the crew will be able to work more productively in the future. So, I think you have done a notable job.”
This time he bursts out with a good laugh.
(*Good . . . Yes . . . It is good.*)
I raise my eyebrow obviously, inquisitively.
(*His eyes shine . . . shine . . . shine . . .*)
“Please, don't be angry, but only you can talk like that!”
(*His voice is warm… warm... warm…*)
“Commander, Vulcans don’t . . . ”
“…get angry, I know! You are right and I am always the one being childish!”
(*His tone is sweetly mocking … sweetly... sweetly…*)
“No Commander, you certainly most are not childish. Quite the opposite. I recognize that you are advanced relative to most in regards to your talents.”
(*And my tone… is it by any chance… gentle?*)
“Are you trying to say . . . ?”
“For example, these . . . Christmas presents were made with mastery. And you were thinking not only of . . . Humans.”
(*And now? Why did I add these words? What… what am I searching for?*)
“Ah! I’m pleased you noticed the tiny gift for Phlox! Obviously I didn’t make anything for you. I figured it wouldn’t agree with Vulcan decorum to have you crawling around the floor among the crew, looking for some stupid puppet, or something.”
(*Yes. Obviously. I am Vulcan. Well then, why…*) – I lower my face to hide my look — (*… why am I experiencing this… this… disappointment? *)
I raise my head, hearing him calling me.
He is looking at me, without smiling.
“T’Pol, I . . . uh . . . I would like it if you would agree to share another human tradition with me.”
(*Again! Another trap! Eh no! This time I will not fall into it! *)
I reply sternly.
“Naturally, for the sake of my study of human customs.”
He apparently doesn’t care about my tone.
“Well you enjoyed the toast and the… wine? Didn’t you?”
His eyes sparkle, again.
(*How sparkling are these eyes! *)
“Tell me the truth, T’Pol! I know Vulcans don’t lie.”
His lips bend up, in a teasing… sweet… smile.
(*How . . .sweet . . . is this smile! *)
I am going to fall into his trap! I know! Once again!
“As you rightly pointed out, Commander, Vulcans don’t lie.”
I am nearly into the trap! I know! Once again!
“You… are right. I… enjoyed the toast and… the wine.”
(*Is it only an impression, or my is voice slightly trembling?*)
“So, I’m sure you’ll find this second experience just as agreeable.”
By now his smile is totally broad and the light in his eyes is shining uncontrollably.
The trap is engulfing me! Inexorably! Once again!
“Come on, T’Pol! Trust me! I only want to show you one thing. I am sure you will find it . . . pleasant.”
I look into his eyes.
(*How . . . blue and limpid are his eyes! *)
I nod, sighing imperceptibly.
“Very well, Commander. Show me.”
It’s done! The trap has closed around me. Once again!
TTTTT . . . (*Tucker!*) . . . Mister Tucker nods, in his turn, yet smiling, a bit… mischievously.
“Good, T’Pol. Please, follow me. As I said, I wish to show you something, but… not in the middle of all these people.”
(*Oh!*) . . .
“We should leave our glasses here, on the table. Please, give me yours.”
And he reaches out for my glass to take it from my hand.
I release the glass very swiftly, so that the touch of his skin can be as brief as possible.
He watches me strangely, then, without any comment, he turns to put down the glasses down on the table.
And then I see Doctor Phlox, who is staring at me, with a half-smile on his mouth, an indecipherable, attentive . . . amused . . . look in his eyes.
The Commander's body up to now has blocked my view. I was unaware of his presence and his . . . interest.
I don’t know how long he’s been observing us.
I don't know what he saw or . . . thought he was seeing.
(*Because . . . because . . . there was nothing . . . nothing! . . . to see! *)
He realizes I have realized he is watching me.
His smile broadens.
Impudently… he lifts a hand to greet me, almost with a teasing manner.
I glance away suddenly, ill at ease.
(*And… the others? What would they have thought, seeing me and the Commander . . . ? nothing! . . . Because . . . there was nothing! . . . to see! And . . . nothing! . . . to think! *)
“Can we go?”
T . . . Tucker’s voice calls me back from my thoughts.
His eyes are upon me, somewhat puzzled.
I return his look.
“Yes, Commander. We can go.”
My tone is perfectly quiet. Very Vulcan.
He nods, and then he gestures with his hand, pointing the direction.
Glancing sidelong at the Doctor, his gaze still upon us, I follow the Commander, letting him lead the way.
“T’Pol . . .”
We are alone, in front of a window, in a corner of the room, distant enough from others to be able to speak quietly, without being heard. Also able to . . . do something, without being seen.
The Commander is staring out into space, his eyes upon the window, his back towards me.
“T’Pol . . .”
He slowly turns around.
He directs his gaze at me and continues in a small voice, a watery smile on his face, sounding somewhat embarrassed.
“T’Pol… earlier… I wasn’t actually sincere.”
I don't reply; I limit myself to raising my eyebrow.
He carries on, that smile yet on his mouth, that tone yet in his voice.
“It's true I made no Christmas present for you, and it's true I was thinking it wouldn't have agreed with Vulcan decorum for you to look for one stupid gift on the floor, among the crew.”
His smile is wry, now.
“You would have thought: Another moronic challenge from the same moronic human who, expects me to learn all these ridiculous foreign customs.”
Before I can say a word, he chuckles and continues to speak.
“Well. I know you wouldn’t have thought this exactly” – another chuckle – “But in essence.”
He becomes serious.
“And tonight I don't want any stupid challenges. Tonight—he looks at me intensely—I don't want any bickering. Tonight I only would like, if you want, to show you a little bit of true Christmas spirit.”
I continue to be silent, watching him and waiting . . . expectantly.
“So . . .”— He looks uncertain — “I . . . I also have a gift for you. It isn't made by me. I . . . I thought you might be able to accept it, even if this Christmas present exchange has nothing to do with you and your species.”
He moves a step towards me and, unconsciously, I do the same towards him.
I am . . . warm . . . in my heart.
“You are also far from your family, from your friends, and from your world, just as we are. I don't know if Vulcans feel homesickness. But . . . maybe . . . maybe you would feel a bit of loneliness . . . being the only Vulcan on a human vessel.”
Yes, I am warm . . . in my heart.
He puts a hand in his pocket and he pulls out something.
He approaches a bit more.
I also approach him, slightly more.
He smiles again and offers me his gift.
“This is an old thing, that Humans often give at Christmas. It has no worth. But it has been with my family for a long time. I don't know from where it came, but now it's mine, and I want to give it you.”
His smile is very warm now.
And also . . . my heart.
I raise my eyes on his.
“I can’t accept something that you value highly, even if only for its historical significance.”
Another step towards me.
Another step towards him.
How . . . sweet is his tone!
How… how warm is my heart!
“When a Human wants to make someone aware of his friendship, he gives this someone something personal, like am I doing for you.”
How sweet is his tone!
How warm is his voice!
How sweetly warm… my heart!
“We already toasted our friendship. It exists. Please, T'Pol. Accept this my gift, in pawn of our friendship.”
Warm . . . warm . . . Warm . . .
Sweet . . . sweet . . . sweet . . .
I lower my look at the object he holds.
I reach for his gift and take it out of his hand . . . relishing his touch for a few instants.
I observe my gift.
It is a little transparent sphere. Inside, a group of tiny huts. A sort of village in miniature, with the roofs white by the . . . snow.
“Shake it, slightly.”
I do what he says and I see that the sphere fills with a lot of tiny snow flakes, which whirl a short time, and then settle on the roofs of the little houses.
It is… beautiful.
“An authentic Christmas landscape!”
He laughs quietly.
“Do you enjoy it?”
I raise my head to answer and I find his face one inch from mine.
My voice dies in my throat.
Our eyes meet, both wide.
(*God! How… beautiful are her eyes! The colour is… greenish-gray, but so deep that her eyes appear as made with chocolate! And her eyelashes . . . how long they are! And her eyebrows, I never noticed how delicious they look! *)
Our noses nearly touch.
(*And how cute her nose is, tiny, delicate, saucy! *)
I feel his scent.
(And her skin is subtly, delightfully fragrant! *)
I hold my breath, my mouth slightly open, like his. My eyes lower to his lips . . . like his do to mine.
(*This mouth! I’ve seen a mouth like this! Swollen, red, a fragrant flower to smell, an luscious fruit to . . . to . . .*)
I stare into the blue of his eyes.
Our faces come closer . . . closer . . . closer . . .
He stares into me, past me, and I close my eyes.
Our mouths move closer . . . closer.
I feel his breath on my lips.
Our lips almost touch . . .
. . . almost . . .
. . . almost . . .
- SMASH -
We spring at the sudden noise.
We draw away from each other, both quickly moving backward.
We look to one another’s eyes, for a flash, then turn to find the source of the sound.
Ensign Sato is standing only few steps from us, a hand covering her open mouth, eyes widened, a crushed glass near her feet on the floor.
We three observe each another for a moment.
Finally the Ensign begins to sputter.
“Oh . . . I . . . Oh . . . I . . . I . . . I am . . . I am sorry for . . . my clumsiness!”
She points to the smashed glass.
“I . . . hope I didn’t frighten you . . . well, no! I know Vulcans don’t get scared, of course not! Or you either, . . . Commander! I’m sorry! Anyway, I was coming over to tell you . . . Well . . . I . . . Oh dear!”
She lowers her eyes and bends to the ground to clean the wine stain with a napkin and reuses it to sweep up pieces of glass.
She seems to be using great diligence in this task.
Without raising her look, the Ensign speaks yet from her crouched position.
“I was looking for you, Commander, to invite you to join us in the Christmas carols. We thought it would be fun and we were guessing you would want to sing too.”
She stands up, with an . . . amused . . . look on her face, and goes on, gazing . . . at me.
“I . . . hope I wasn't disturbing you both.”
“No . . . no, Hoshi. Not at all!” Tri . . . the Commander is promptly replying, in a strange hoarse voice.
Then he turns toward me, meeting my eyes, with a look... surprised and muddled.
“Excuse me, T’Pol, but I am . . . demanded . . . elsewhere.”
I prefer not to hear . . . how my voice might sound right now.
“Well, maybe you’d like our carols. Why don’t you come hang us?”
I nod, without speaking. Again.
“Great, then!”—That smile, his smile, is again on his mouth (*His mouth! *) – “And, T’Pol . . . I believe I’m not mistaken in thinking your present was welcome?”
I nod the third time, while out of the corner of my eye I see Ensign Sato watching me pointedly.
“Okay! I am so glad! And now to the . . . carols! I will go wait for you with others.”
He turns towards the Ensign and joins her.
I observe them head for the others, my head heavy, my . . . Christmas gift in my hand.
I am listening the Christmas songs that human people are singing tonight. These . . . Christmas carols, as Humans call them.
They are . . . sweet.
Humans sing, chat, eat, drink.
I feel their emotions.
And, strangely, these emotions don’t annoy me.
I am thinking of this, without daring to think of what happened earlier, with the Commander, even if I believe he didn’t read what was going through my mind . . . my inner, jumbled . . . unacknowledgeable thoughts.
And I don’t dare to remember . . . those thoughts.
I am Vulcan.
So why am I . . . enjoying . . . this atmosphere?
And why those thoughts?
Perhaps . . . I not quite like other Vulcans?
Is this true?
And is this the reason I find myself here . . . uniquely Vulcan on a human vessel?
I . . .I feel a . . . a constriction, within me.
I . . . I don’t want to be different from my race.
I don’t want to be something strange, alien to my world.
I am Vulcan!
Not . . . human-like!
I am T’Pol . . .
T’Pol of Vulcan.
I . . . don’t want to be . . . alone! I . . .
Suddenly I notice that the singing voices are faded.
The chant is going on . . . but now a single voice is rising forward.
It is a voice deep, attractive, sweet . . . a voice I well know.
All people are silent, listening to this voice.
Me too. The voicea are singing of snow, of the warmth of home, of the sweetness of familial affections, of . . . love. And I . . . understand . . .
I . . . who never have seen . . . snow.
That voice penetrates inside me.
It . . . warms.
It tell me that… I am not alone.
I realize I have approached him.
I am the closest to him.
Ahead of the others.
And I don’t care.
I stare at him.
I listen him with rapt attention.
He stays seated, his hands upon the instrument — (*A guitar. I know.*) – with which he is accompanying his song, his eyes lowered on it.
He feels my look upon him.
He raises his eyes.
He sees me.
His eyes sparkle.
He smiles at me.
And I blush.
I’m in my quarters, in my bed.
I have meditated.
A long time.
Now I am composed and serene.
As a Vulcan must be.
And nonetheless I am unable to get to sleep.
What comes to mind is the end of the Christmas party:
º Good night, T’Pol º
º Good night, Captain º
º I hope you aren't too put out having to share another human anniversary with usº
º Not at all, Captain. Quite the reverse, I found this . . . party . . . instructive º
º I’m pleased to hear that, T’Pol! I’m glad you ventured out. We’re explorers after all. Good Night, T’Pol.”
º Good night, Captain º
One after another other officers left, after greetings.
In the end only the Commander and I remained.
Smiling, he had spoken:
º Well, T’Pol. I, too, am glad. I am pleased you found this party . . . instructive º
His tone was teasing, as usual. But, in someway it was different. Friendly. And . .. . something else.
º Thanks, Commander. And . . . º— the words escaped my mouth almost of their own accord - ºI appreciate your Christmas gift. º
And then his face lit up.
º Uh… all… all right, T’Pol. I am . . . I am . . . º
And then he shrugged his shoulders, smiling.
º Merry Christmas, T’Pol º
A warmth, inside me.
º Merry… merry Christmas also to you, Commander º His smile had become indescribable, at my words, and he had gone away with that smile, leaving me with a soft, ineffable, inner heat.
I am thinking of all this, in my bed, and of the thoughts . . . the emotions . . . stirred in me, tonight, involving . . . the Commander.
I cannot deny these facts.
But surely everything will revert to normality, when this whirlwind of human emotions connected with this Christmas is over; they will cease their influence.
(*Of course… Everything will revert to normality. Tomorrow nothing will remain of this strange night. Without a doubt.*)
“Sure. Tomorrow everything will be normal. Everything will be like it must.”
Without realizing it, I have been expressing these thoughts aloud, in a small voice.
“Certainly! Tomorrow this “sprit” will be gone,” I say to myself. “Yes, I am sure.”
A feeble reflection draws my eyes.
I turn my head to look at that reflection.
I see on the table my Christmas gift, which dazzles tenuously in the dim light of my room.
My voice resounds uncertainly to my ears.
“. . . I am . . . sure.”
It’s quite true that sometimes one doesn’t have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, or the brain to think.
Above all, when the matter is love.
In any case, it is still too soon.
It wasn’t that long ago, you refused to touch his hand.
You can’t imagine your hands will be intertwined, that awful day, when your daughter, yours and his, will . . . die.
You can’t imagine your hands will be intertwined . . . forever.
Like your hearts.
And he, a foolish stubborn man, as everyman is, doesn yet understand what he has between his hands.
He will look for other . . . adventures! This stupid man!
But, in the end, he will understand!
But now it is too soon.
For now, all I can do is to wish to you, T’Pol (and also to… you, you stupid man), a truly Merry Christmas… and a Happy New Year!
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