A Very Millie Christmas K/U, S/U [G]

Image courtesy of the Interweb and moi
Disclaimer: The characters are Paramount's, their actions are mine.

Summary: Another Christmas Story Challenge. A sequel of a sorts to Bikini Atoll and Creme Fraiche


Uhura sat at her boards, listening hard for messages in a cacophony of stellar dissonance. The Enterprise was busily monitoring a star nursery--a tight cluster of proto-suns awaiting their birth into an indifferent galaxy. Hard radiation swaddled the ship as it sat vigil, scanning and measuring how a new luminary came into being.

Just as with any other nursery, the inhabitants were seldom quiet. The spectrum of noise in their immediate vicinity made it nearly impossible to send or receive normal subspace messages. So Uhura mostly pretended to be busy, not so patiently waiting for Mister Spock to authorize the daily high speed data burst she had been transmitting to Starfleet since the beginning of this mission. But now it seemed she waited in vain, as once again the science officer notified her to send a location 'ping' only, an efficient, but boring, method of advising Starfleet the ship was safe and on duty.

Nyota was sorely tempted to break orders, finding something worthy of beaming to Earth just so she could piggyback a personal comm onto an official communique. Hours before the ship stationed itself in the middle of this starry incubator Uhura received a call advising that her father was taken to hospital after falling at their family home. Her younger sister had made the contact but did not have any details other than their mother had found him unconscious at the bottom of the living room stairs.

That was two weeks ago and Nyota had heard nothing since. She was seriously considering asking Mister Spock or the Captain for special dispensation in order to comm for an update. Crew was normally allowed to piggyback personal communications onto official data packets transmitted as a part of ship's business. However, since the radiation and star noise made routine messaging nearly impossible, both the ship and her crew were in relative blackout. Only mission-pertinent or emergency orders warranted the efforts needed to get past the dispatch barriers.

Uhura rationalized to herself that Starfleet would push through an emergency notification of a family member's death. She recognized it as a form of denial or cowardice to think that no news from Earth meant her father was still alive. For now, that fallacy and the activities of the crew as they prepared for their own version of Christmas were the only thing allowing her to stay sane aboard ship.

Not everyone aboard was from Earth, and even of those, not all celebrated traditional Christmas, but nearly every culture in the Federation had some holiday that espoused peace and goodwill. Planning and preparing for the ship's party gave the non-mission dedicated crew something to do while the Enterprise sat dead in space. Captain Kirk had long ago turned over control to his science officer, preferring to spend his time below decks. It was his opportunity to spend time with the crew, putting names with faces and performance jackets. Uhura envied him; he could roam the ship, only making a token appearance on the bridge that she was tied to for at least half her regular watch. Per regulations she was allowed to assign a junior member of her team for up to half her shift, ostensibly to gain experience and exposure to alpha shift. The fact that they were parked in a communications void with hardly any senior bridge crew present was just the luck of the draw.

Spock himself was conducting most of the research teams from his office in the main Astro lab. Captain Kirk allowed Chekov to sit watch from the Conn because Sulu, originally a ship's physicist, had asked to be involved in the research. Mister Scott was far too busy turning the shuttle bay into a Winter Wonderland to sit idle watch. Uhura thought the chief engineer might have outdone himself this year. His plans called for a toboggan run spiraling down from the upper bay platform to be flanked by two small ice rinks--one for pleasure skating and the other for ice hockey. Opposing snow forts with an abundant supply of snowball ammunition were also being discussed. A beautiful bluish conifer, conscripted from the arboretum was scheduled for center-stage, both it and the encircling party tables decked out in traditional garland. Tonight she hoped to see it in all its splendor.

Walking into the big bay, Uhura marveled at the high ceiling and walls covered in thousands and thousands of twinkling lights. Hover lamps strategically placed in unobtrusive locations allowed for an intimate and cozy atmosphere in the seating areas. Their golden light evolved into something more like moon glow on a frosty winter night around the ice rinks and snow forts. The party was in full swing and well attended, Nyota herself slightly late, making one final check with the Bridge for any new communiques from Earth.

"Darling, don't look so sad. Here, have a bit of good ol' Georgia eggnog." The CMO, and self-appointed door greeter, gave her a sympathetic hug as he guided a cup of pale yellow liquid into her hand.

"Thank you, Doctor McCoy," she murmured against his comforting shoulder. Only McCoy knew about her father's accident--someone she had turned to for help in dealing with the stress and possible outcomes from such a fall.

"It's gonna' be okay, Sugar," he whispered back, patting her cheek in commiseration.

Uhura managed a genuine smile at the doctor's continuing use of affectionate names. She often found the more inebriated he became the more frequently his use of pet names. If the flush of his cheeks was any indication, Nyota was sure "Sweetie" or "Honey" was soon to follow.

Taking her grin as success in improving her mood, McCoy placed his hand against the small of Uhura's back, gently urging her toward the tree. "Now go on in there and have fun; I think some folks are looking for you over there by the tree."

Nyota raised her cup of eggnog in salute as she followed the doctor's directive. A quick sniff of the contents warned her against actually drinking any of its contents. McCoy might find it enticing but Uhura decided it just made her eyes sting. Once safely enshrouded in the crowd of merry-makers, she abandoned her cup on a fake mantel over a fake fire.

"Don't let the good doctor see you waste his family recipe." Uhura startled as if caught by the CMO himself instead of the Captain.

"Oh, no sir, I would never allow that to happen." Nyota grinned conspiratorially as she watched him place his own still full cup next to hers.

"Good, then I feel safe leaving mine here as well." His impish smile implying he liked the idea of the drink more than the beverage itself.

"Perhaps something without nutmeg would be more to your liking--how about a glass of mulled wine?" He motioned her toward a nearby table holding a faintly steaming punch bowl of deep garnet liquid.

"How do you know the wine doesn't have nutmeg in it? It *is* a traditional mulling spice." Uhura asked curiously, realizing Kirk's decline of the eggnog was related to the spice and not the amount of alcohol Uhura found appalling.

"Because it's made from my Aunt Elsa's Scandinavian recipe. What can I say; it pays to know the chef." A smug smile tugged at the corners of Kirk's mouth as he clinked his glass to hers before sipping the warm beverage.

"It certainly does." Nyota grinned back, content to relax within his smile. She didn't often find herself the recipient of his attentions at social gatherings, his preference usually being someone outside of his command.

"Oh? What is that?" Kirk asked in dramatic surprise, looking deeply within the branches of the tree.

"What is what, sir?" Uhura asked hesitantly, confounded by the Captain's sudden interest in the tree.

"There! Under the tree. What do you think it might be?" Kirk dropped to one knee, practically climbing inside the boughs before extracting himself and one very ratty gold lame gift bag.

"Oh no," Uhura mouthed softly as she attempted to back away, the incriminating mantel suddenly in her way, trapping her between the cups of eggnog and the bedraggled bag.

"Oh yes! I'm sure Aunt Millie would want you to have it!" Kirk crooned tauntingly as he reached inside and withdrew the most hideous scarf any intelligent being would *ever* see. The multi-colored accessory contained hues that even a tricorder could not register.

"Oh no, sir! Don't make me wear it!" She beseeched him, but it fell on deaf ears as he draped the offending garment casually around her shoulders.

"Ah, now doesn't it look pretty?" Kirk asked in evil innocence.

Uhura just stood there, wanting to melt into the floor as she became the center of much more than the Captain's attention--the new recipient of the 'Sweet Aunt Millie' scarf.


Kirk remembered it like it was yesterday. It began as a true gift once bestowed with much love, if not color coordination, to midshipman Gary Mitchell by his sweet, doting, Great Aunt Millie.

One Christmas, early in his academy days, Gary had brought Kirk home to spend the holidays with his family. Scion of rich, but indifferent parents, Kirk quickly understood Gary's outlandish behavior as a plea for attention. It did not seem to matter to him that the attention gained often took the form of angry reprimands and threats of disownment. However, regardless of his perfidy to the family, Gary remained the favorite of another family outcast--Aunt Millie. Practically abandoned by her own children who had moved off-planet, she had taken refuge with Gary's mother, becoming another inconvenience to her niece's social obligations. Gary was never mean or hateful to Aunt Millie; instead his sarcastic tongue was limited to gentle teasing of the kind old lady who always showed him unconditional love.

Kirk could still vision standing next to Gary in Aunt Millie's suite of rooms, called away from the huge party downstairs in order to receive a gift from his great aunt. The gold bag had been pristine then; the overhead lights making it shine like the Star of Bethlehem. Kirk had stayed back near the door, feeling awkward and conspicuous as Gary's elder made over how much her great nephew had grown since his last visit home.

Gary never flinched as he removed the hand-knitted scarf from the bag, immediately draping it around his neck and modeling it for Aunt Millie. Kirk remembered feeling slightly nauseous at the chaos of colors, but he kept a hard-wired smile in place as he nodded agreement to a rhetorical, "doesn't he look handsome?" A quickly offered, "no please, don't worry about me," came on the heels of Aunt Millie's declaration of sadness that she had just made the one scarf.

Gary thanked his great aunt profusely before excusing himself. Kirk had been sure Gary was being facetious and would remove the spasm of speciousness as soon as he left Aunt Millie's room, but Gary proved him wrong. Instead he promptly marched himself downstairs, taking perverse pleasure in calling attention to his Christmas gift, often extracting weak comments of, "yes, it's beautiful," before moving on to torture another guest. Even later, in the privacy of his room, Gary never said anything but good things about his scarf. Kirk, out of respect for Gary's devotion to his doting aunt, kept any wayward opinions to himself.

It was not until their first shipboard assignment together that the scarf made a new appearance. Gary had been talking to Jim quietly by the tree during the ship's Christmas party when he suddenly spied something in the boughs. Speaking loudly, to draw as much attention as he could, Gary pulled a slightly less shiny gold lame bag from the lower branches and exclaimed for the gathering crowd: "Merry Christmas, Jim! I know Aunt Millie would want you to have this!"

Jim had felt himself bust out in a cold sweat as Gary deftly wrapped the nasty nightmare around his neck. Kirk had glared at his best friend, wishing him a fast run down a steep slope, but refused to let Gary get the best of him. Following the precedent set before him, Kirk grabbed the lower end of the dangling scarf, tossing it across his shoulder before beginning his march around the room, intent upon gathering compliments for his fiasco in fashion.

And so it began, each Christmas blessed by the ritual bequeathment of the scarf in its blemished bag. It had continued every year until last Christmas, when Kirk could not set aside the pain of Gary's death to find a new victim to share the tradition.


"But Lieutenant," Kirk began sweetly, "since you have so ably accepted the mantle of many of Mister Mitchell's causes, I can think of no one who deserves it more."

Uhura felt the heat of embarrassment scored by Kirk's cold revenge. She had not meant to share that seductive picture of him walking out of the flames--but then an anonymous call requesting entries for "Mister Starfleet" had reminded her of Gary's efforts the year before. Was it *her* fault if she worked with such a handsome man--the reigning title holder? Someone who she happened to have candidly captured during a shore leave luau in inviting if indelicate imagery? Wouldn't it have been the greater transgression to let her crew mates down? Wasn't there honor and ship's pride at stake? Had Gary ever tried to rationalize his actions this way?

Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell had spent three months on the ice planet, Geb Four, as a Federation observer to a Verdactian mining colony. After seeing Kirk's face following Admiral Nogura's blasting--at great length--for again winning a contest considered beneath his station--while again not trying--Uhura decided the 'gauntlet-get-along of the scarf' was a small penalty to pay.

Drawing herself into a pose of quick attention, she answered smartly, "Yes sir, thank you for the honor," in response to the good-natured chastisement. Then, steeling herself for the hoots and belly laughs sure to mark her way, Nyota tossed the scarf dramatically across her shoulder, and began her slightly penitent procession through the crowd.

Four catcalls, six marriage proposals, two toboggan rides and one snowball fight later found Uhura eyeing the ice rink with only a modicum of trepidation. It wasn't as if she had never been skating before, it was only that it had been several years previously. She had permanent bruises to prove it.

"Do you know how to skate, Lieutenant?" Kirk asked, stepping next to her, wistfully watching the couples glide across the ice.

"I used to know how, sir." Nyota answered as she subconsciously touched the monstrous mantle around her neck.

"It's like riding a bike, Lieutenant--" Kirk began as Spock seemed to appear out of nowhere.

"Excuse me, Captain, but I am in need of the Lieutenant's assistance. Please follow me," he stated matter-of-factly before walking away.

Uhura cut her eyes to the Captain, subtly seeking permission to assist Mister Spock.

Kirk sighed as the idea of skating was replaced by something that did not sound nearly as fun. He tilted his head toward the retreating Vulcan, making a gallant 'after you' gesture with his hand. Uhura was only slightly surprised to discover Kirk followed, seemingly just as intent as she was to know what required her immediate assistance.

Spock stopped at the far wall next to the door of the lower bay office. Uhura was still at a loss because the office was temporarily shut down, a stop-gap storage facility for the crates and boxes used to house the reusable holiday decorations.

As she neared the entryway Spock turned and palmed the door. It opened to bright lights and several partitioned kiosks lining the main console and perimeter walls. Uhura had never seen the office configured as it was now.

"Lieutenant, I need to begin transmission of our backlog of data. The computer system is bordering instability and the quickest solution is to reduce its data load. If you could set up a tight-beam frequency from this station I can begin."

"Uh--yes sir--Mister Spock," Nyota answered in confusion. Spock was quite capable of configuring a tight-beam transmission and could easily have done so from the Bridge or his astrophysics lab.

At his nonplussed stare and Kirk's continued quiet she sat down at the first station to do as requested. Once online Spock tapped in his own commands and the Enterprise began dumping her weeks of collected research to Earth.

"It'll take hours for all the data to transmit, Mister Spock," Uhura offered in bewilderment. Why had he waited until now to send the information?

"Fourteen point three-three-four hours, Lieutenant," Spock corrected automatically.

"Or about long enough for all the crew to take turns and talk to their families for twenty minutes or so, don't you think, Lieutenant?" Kirk suggested--not too subtly. "Why don't you try it out first? Perhaps call home to see how your father is doing?"

"Oh, yes sir, I'd love that," she beamed, knowing she would forgive McCoy for sharing her secret since he had found her a way to call home.

Looking up into the Captain's playful eyes, Nyota spied a remnant of mistletoe clinging to an overhead lighting fixture. Kirk looked up, following her gaze as her own sense of mischief took control of her smile. Spock's eyes followed suit, targeting the greenery with sudden interest as Nyota launched herself out of the chair and kissed the Captain soundly. She was quite convinced he was the instigator of Spock's plan. If his return kiss was any indication, it was a safe bet Kirk was extremely thankful for the sloppy removal of the stored decorations.

Turning from Kirk to eye the Vulcan also standing in proximity of the mistletoe, Uhura moved in more slowly. "Mister Spock, you understand the Earth custom regarding mistletoe, do you not?"

"I have read about it, Lieutenant. A myth of Scandinavian origin proclaiming it a plant of love after a spear fashioned from the plant killed Baldur, son of the Goddess Frigga. The premise and ensuing custom is most illogical."

"Yes, Mister Spock and all of Vulcan's customs and rituals are solely based in fact, right?"

"Vulcans have great respect for tradition and ritual, Miss Uhura."

"Of all cultures....." she stepped closer.

"Of all cultures," he answered softly but continued to stand his ground, Uhura mere inches from his lips.

"Dammit, kiss her Spock!" Kirk goaded, incredulous that Spock could resist the woman before him.

"I intend to, Captain," Spock remarked with utter frankness to a dumfounded Kirk.

The kiss was sweet but neither short nor one-sided.

"Uhhh--that was a fine demonstration of respect for ritual, Mister Spock." Uhura's light-headedness had nothing to do with the forgotten eggnog.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. I confess I have considered experimenting with this ritual before. However, a likely test subject has never presented herself until now." Spock was composed as ever, but his eyes did seem a bit merrier.

"I will consider that a compliment, Mister Spock." Uhura grinned back, no doubt about her own enjoyment.

Her only answer was a raised brow.

"Call home, Lieutenant; check on Dad." Kirk motioned fatherly toward the comm board, trying to forget his own kiss and get back on task. "Then I'd appreciate it if you'd pass the word to the crew and get these stations online so everyone can call home. It's not the best arrangement, but between the radiation bombardment and the data transmission itself, Spock thought locally-linked lines would get the strongest, clearest signal."

"I concur, sir." Nyota nodded. "And don't worry; I'll make sure everyone gets a chance to call home."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Oh, and I bet Aunt Millie wouldn't mind if you took off her gift before you talk to your folks." Kirk relented, unable to punish innocent parents.

"Oh no, sir, I intend to wear it! My mom will be *so* jealous." Nyota grinned over her shoulder as she set to work configuring a personal comm line to Earth.


Hours later Uhura walked into her quarters, exhausted but happy. Her father was recovering at home, a large goose-egg on his forehead the only visible sign of injury. A promise of "tell you later, Mama" came on the heels of her mother's pointed question: "Binti! What is that around your neck?!" She did not think twenty minutes could begin to explain why the Captain would give her such an offensive offering.

After wishing her parents love and a much longer comm after the Enterprise finished this mission, a few ingenious crew members helped her coordinate the comm queue. Her own partying over, Liz Palmer came over as relief, allowing Uhura to call it a night.

Staring at herself in the mirror, Uhura slowly unwound the scarf from around her neck, finally looking past the caustic rainbow of color to the finely knitted weave along its length. The even stitching showed great skill, eloquently demonstrating a deep love for the intended recipient. Someone special who would benefit from the hours and hours of tedious handwork needed to complete it.

She carefully folded the scarf against itself until it was small enough to tuck inside its annual resting place of gold lame. Supporting the bag from underneath, Nyota gently placed it on the top shelf of her closet, protected for another year and a new Christmas victim....


Merry Christmas K/U [PG]

Image courtesy of the Interweb
Disclaimer: The characters are Paramount's, their actions are mine.

Summary: A Little holiday frivolity to warm your soul.


The party winds down and I watch as you inch your way toward the door. This year you're holding yourself in check, watching how much you drink and at whom you smile. This Christmas will not find you sharing an innocent kiss with some recent transferee. No, you've made sure to keep well away from that bough of mistletoe hanging near the eggnog… .

So, you're oblivious as I approach--too much cheer emboldening my actions. I stop before you, holding up my own sprig of mischief and beaming my best flirt. It takes you a half second to react, the tension leaving your body as you realize just how reserved you've been. Your face lights up with the impish smile that's gotten you into and out of more trouble than I really care to know.

The kiss brushes my lips, sending shivers down my spine and elsewhere. You continue to lean in, breathing softly against my neck, my ear….

"Merry Christmas, Nyota." You whisper softly, a hint of seduction in your tone and the ghost of that smile still in your eyes.

"Merry Christmas, Captain." I manage to reply, in shock at how quickly my plan back-fired on me.

Your smile grows paternal and I feel the spell broken, allowing me to hear an amused voice clearing itself next to me.

"Ahhh hmm, you're not going to stop with just one kiss are you, Lieutenant? Seems like a waste of good mistletoe to me."

"Uhh, what Doctor?" I stutter as I try to focus on the smiling man in blue while watching the man in gold turn and walk out the door.

"Let me show you how it's done. See, you hold the mistletoe like this and then you lean in under it. Like this…. Yes, just like that…."



I'll Be Home for Christmas K/U [G]

Image courtesy of Paramount, Trekcore and Moi
Disclaimer: The characters are Paramount's, their actions are mine.

Summary: Okay, a couple of things: I'm bastardizing a nearly completed story in order to have something for the Christmas Challenge. Secondly, since TMP was released December 7th 1979, I figure the events of V'Ger happened between December 7-10th. Add a short shakedown cruise and we're bumping serious Christmas time...

It had to be the excitement of Christmas warring with her anticipation of a new mission, but somehow visions of snowy nights curled around a toasty fire battled with Uhura's sense of urgency regarding the comm she had just received. She told herself that the chill in the air was all in her imagination because the ship's public area temperature was supposed to be constant. Never mind that she grew up in a land devoid of snow, four years at the Academy with holiday leaves in the mountains had contaminated her thoroughly to such Rockwellian imagery.

It was late but the computer informed her that Kirk was still in the Officer’s Lounge. She made her way through the quiet halls, a journey like countless others made to deliver coded orders. Normally she would have notified him via the comm, shunting the communiqué to his quarters for private viewing so she could set her sights on the more personal pleasures of a good vid and a mug of mulled cider. It was not strictly mandatory that such orders be hand delivered, but this packet was encoded with Admiral Nogura’s own cipher. That could mean only one thing—a decision had been made regarding Kirk retaining permanent command of the Enterprise.

Their shakedown cruise was rife with speculation. Would HQ allow Kirk to stay aboard? In times of war an admiral might take command of a whole task force, but not just a single ship. A ship of the line was commanded by a rank no higher than commodore, and even those were rare. Now, as they made their way back home to Earth for a final check and resupply, the crew was anxious to know who would be commanding the newly refurbished Enterprise’s maiden five year mission.

Nyota stepped through the door of the officer’s lounge; a fast image of schematics against the large viewport was quickly replaced by the inky black of space as the comp sensed her presence. Standing with his back to her, Kirk now seemingly watched the stars move in slow motion across the dark void. The ship's speed had been reduced in anticipation of an opening berth within Spacedock and again, to Nyota's holiday-addled mind, the stars glided past like gently falling snow. The lights remained low, allowing Kirk to catch her reflection in the transparency of the bulkhead, the peacefulness of the scene in conflict with the piles of data wafers strewn across the low table. His eyes followed her as she brought the padd to him.

"So, Commander, do you bring glad tidings?" They both knew who the orders were from-- Uhura by the transmission coordinates, Kirk by intuition.

"I don’t know, sir, however, they *are* signed by Admiral Nogura." Nyota answered Kirk as he took the padd. A small sigh escaped him but his hand remained steady as he entered his command codes to release the encryption. She watched his face for any sign of the verdict, catching only the minuteness of a flinch as his eyes scanned the screen.

"Sir? Is it good news? Are you keeping the Enterprise?" She knew she was out of line by questioning him on the subject but his silence was too much to endure.

"Well, that is actually several points below what the admiral recommends--far behind keelhauling or court-martialing—his first two choices. However, since it is not politically expedient to do either, he is forced to reduce my rank back to captain in order to turn command of the Enterprise over to me for the duration of her mission. Oh, and he says for me to consider it my Christmas present... ."

"Duration of the mission?—Do you mean you're going to be the captain of the entire five-year mission?" Uhura tried to keep the incredulity out of her voice. She would not allow herself to think of it during the shakedown—to have him on the bridge again for another full mission was outside the pale of anyone's expectations.

"It would seem so, Commander." Uhura watched him reread the orders several times, as if he expected to find something different on the second or third pass.

"At least the Admiral is trying to have a sense of humor about it," she offered gingerly.

"No, not really," Kirk answered drolly with a resigned shrug and shake of his head before dismissing the topic. "How do you think the crew will react to the news?" He kept any excitement out of his voice, attempting to focus on the immediate ramifications of his assignment. It was common knowledge that there were serious grumblings when he originally took command away from Decker.

"I think they will be ecstatic, Captain." The old title came to Uhura's tongue effortlessly but Kirk sensed there was more she wasn't saying.

"How many transfers have been requested?" He always unnerved her with his insight.

"Four, Captain, and two contingents." .

"I've seen the four, but who are the two shipping out if I stay?" Kirk's eyes glazed, internally trying to speculate on who else might be dissatisfied with his permanent assignment.

"Doctor Chapel and Chief Rand, sir," She thought perhaps the sting of old crew leaving would prick hard, but he just nodded his head, as if their leaving was entirely expected.

Kirk's eyes came back into focus, suddenly centering on Uhura as he asked, "What about you? You've told me about everyone else, but not what you've decided. Are you staying?"

Uhura felt her heart rise into her throat, caught off guard by his question and the sudden intensity of his gaze. She bought time by asking her own question. "Where else would I go?"

Realizing she had not said yes, Kirk answered sincerely, "You have many options--a promotion if you accept that teaching position at the Academy, several offers from other ships, an opportunity within the General Staff--I've done my homework." He tried to end it with a teasing grin but it fell short of his usual indulgent smirk.

"But none of those places are home. I told you once that the Enterprise is my home and all I ever had to give up to live here was you." She watched his body tense and his eyes grow dark as she spoke of their night together those months ago in Monaco; a few shared hours of tenderness stolen away from the responsibilities of work and duty. That night Kirk had dropped his guard, allowing himself to be vulnerable. Tonight he resisted, his only acknowledgement of their time together a defeated smile. No mention of their last meeting had passed between them since Kirk had taken command of the ship. At the onset of the V'Ger crisis Uhura had pushed that evening out of her mind, staying focused on her job to do her part toward survival. But after Earth was saved she could not deny the hurt she felt at his continued distancing.

"We did it before," he offered softly, now stepping so close to Uhura she had to look up at him.

"That was a lifetime ago. A lot has passed between us since then." She did not flinch from his gaze; five years in this man's shadow was hanging in the balance.

"I still need my best people beside me." She felt his hands on her shoulders but his eyes alone could have held her in stasis.

"Five years is a long time." She still remembered all the visiting princesses that failed to beam down until the next morning. It was hard to remain faceless in the crowd, pretending not to notice when his charm succeeded in more than diplomacy.

"The ship demands a heavy price." Uhura knew he spoke of his own feelings too, as captain he would have to remain aloof and disengaged when she decided to take her own lovers. Neither of them could expect the other to remain chaste.

"And so do I," she spoke with a defiant rise of her chin. Kirk tilted his head but said nothing, unsure of what was coming next.

"Meet me for breakfast in the morning--and I still get dibs on movie night--I got used to sitting on the front row last voyage and think I want to keep that perk. Also, you'll still be in charge of getting the popcorn. Don't forget I like extra butter." She stepped out of Kirk's shocked grasp, continuing her extortions as she made for the door. "--Oh! And don't forget the parties! Attendance is mandatory at all ship-wide events--no more hiding out with Spock just to avoid a sprig or two of mistletoe or the stray Deltan greeting." She stopped in the doorway, her body keeping the doors from shutting as she turned to gauge his response.

Kirk was biting his bottom lip, trying to keep his composure as he raised his hands in mock supplication while offering a slight bow. "Yes, ma'am, the terms *are* steep but I think they are within acceptable limits." She never ceased to surprise him, but he recognized her deflection into humor as a way to ease their reconciliation from lovers back again to captain and crew.

She beamed her best smile at him. Even with all the reservations in her heart, where else did she really want to be? "Merry Christmas and welcome home, Captain! We're all home now."