Second in series after A Conversation With A Stranger. Takes place the day after Christmas

No still don't own Star Trek and probably never will. I should get a percentage for being so loyal at any rate!


It was late. Well past what would've been midnight, when Captain James Kirk entered the recreational room pausing in his footsteps to gaze silently at the still impressive twenty five foot evergreen that stood in the center of the room.

Uhura and Scotty were the ones who originally instigated the idea of getting a tree, and pushed the idea from the end of October on to any crew member who the could corner. Finally tiring of listening to the complaints of his crew and thinking it would possibly squelch the idea all together, he order the two to seek out one presentable and proper conifer to be used as Christmas tree for the 'Enterprise'.

Little did he realize the two had been scouting and plotting ahead of him, and already had found a small planet that not only supported such trees, but seem almost manufacture them overnight for overly merrymaking Star Fleet officers who apparently needed more duties to occupy their time. But once the approved tree had been selected and Scotty had magically manipulated the transporter to beaming it into the recreational room, Kirk began to reconsider his first opinion of the idea.

He had made an excuse to venture from the quiet confines of the less than festive bridge down to the more festoon decorating party below. Managing to slip in unobserved, he kept to the background watching and listening as Uhura somehow supervised both the caroling and breaking down who would do what decorations, once they were all found. Scotty and a pair of his men were busy under the enormous evergreen double-checking the support and water system before the rest of the crew began their attack of boughs. Chaos seem to be prevalent, yet it was blithe chaos that was contagious and easily swept through the growing crowd even cutting through the Captain's unusual dampened spirits.

Climbing on to a tabletop only a few feet away from dignified evergreen, Uhura clapped her hands at an attempt for the crowd's volume to lower to atleast a delirious din. Failing at her first three tries, she gave in letting a piercing whistle shatter overhead that brought the entire room to a dead silent stand still.

A pleased smile spread over her face seeing ever face turn in her direction, including that of Scotty and crew as they sat back on their knees to listen to the Communication Officer.

"All right everybody, this is the plan." She began trying to sound highly authoritative while rolling the sleeves of her deep gold pullover sweater up a few inches. "Mr. Scott has managed to replicate several strings of different Christmas light for us to place on our glorious tree and else where in the recreational area. He's also managed several hundred yards of garland, a dozen bags of tinsel, a number of branches of holly and for those of the more daring holiday trimming, a half dozen or so sprigs of mistletoe. Those of you who undertake that particular assignment remember we have a limited supply. It would be a shame if they were somehow damaged from unauthorized misuse before being properly displayed."

A ripple of laughter went through the crowd at the humorous pseudo warning, even bringing a tiny smile to the Captain standing at the back of the room.

Seemingly pleased with the response, Uhura grinned as she scanned the room that was still filling up. "But I also have a separate plan for this year. I want all of you to bring something to place on the tree. It doesn't need to be anything of the holiday nature. Simply something that could represent what this last year has meant to you. Or of a certain event that took place within the year. But it doesn't necessarily have to be that specific, but everyone is to place one ornament on the tree. That way the tree will truly represent the crew of the 'Enterprise'. And I expect everyone to contribute. And that includes you Captain."

Straightening up from the wall Kirk found himself suddenly confronted with several dozen amused gazes, as the entire crowd swiveled around to face the Captain. Trying not to scowl at his moment of mild embarrassment, Kirk glanced around at the group then shifted his gaze up to Uhura and forced a smile on to his face. The look however made it clear that she should be expecting to pull a few double shifts within the next few weeks.

"Of course Lieutenant. I don't want it to be known that I'm responsible for any kind of Yuletide melancholy aboard my own ship."

The grin grew even more on Uhura's attractive face at Kirk's obvious discomfort, but quickly drew the crowd's attention back to herself knowing that it wasn't wise to keep the Captain on the hot seat too long.

Close to visibly sagging, Kirk leaned back against the wall again focusing his hazel gaze on the toe of his boots. He had an idea of what Uhura and Scotty had been planning before he decided to join the audience, after listening to their quiet chatter during nearly every meal for the last week. What he hadn't anticipated or appreciated was being the abrupt focal point even for only a few seconds, in the middle of all this good cheer. Not that he didn't have the Christmas spirit, it was just this year... This year it wasn't as prevalent as it had been in the past

After a few seconds of regrouping, he pushed himself from the wall again and slipped out of the recreation room just Uhura began leading the group into 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' as they separated into smaller groups to began their tasks.

If anyone had been closely watching, they may have caught the faint shadow of grief that swept over his just as he ducked through the door.

That had been two weeks ago and now it was the first few hours of December 26th. He knew the tree would remain up until New Year's, yet the crew would start coming in to retrieve their personal items from the evergreen boughs in the morning. And this was his reasoning for the nocturnal prowling of his ship's corridors.

Gazing at the glowing tree for an unknown length of time, he sighed well aware of the mixture of feelings that were making their presence known in both his mind and heart. Taking in a contemplative lungful of air he slowly started towards the tree, taking care not to step on the party streamers and other debris that had been left from the Christmas party that had started the night before only ended a scant few hours ago.

Coming to within two feet of the immense tree, he gazed up at the trimmed branches a gentle smile emerging on to his face under the glow of thousands of tiny lights. Two weeks early had been in the same spot running through the same flash of memories from some twenty-five years earlier in a small farmhouse in the middle of Iowa. And suddenly snapped back to reality at the exact same moment as he forced himself to blink and return to his surroundings.

Slowly walking around the evergreen his eyes rested on the familiar table with the chest set sitting on it, the pieces still fixed in the spots that they had been left in when he and Spock had abandoned their game earlier that day when the party became a little more boisterous for the Vulcan's taste. As he slowly sat down in his chair, Kirk seriously thought that his friend had actually appeared more bored than anything else with just a touch of annoyance at the rambunctious cavorting that was flourishing in noise and imbibing. The expression on Spock's face was stolid as ever, but there was the trace of desperation in the brown eyes that Bones would've referred to as the deer in the headlight's syndrome. It was then that Kirk decided to feign a mild headache and decide to surrender the game to Spock and seek out the Doctor for some much-needed aspirin. Knowing fully well the minute he started up from the table Spock would be heading for his own quarters to spend the rest of the holiday in peaceful seclusion. An extra Christmas gift for his friend.

Studying the multi-leveled chessboards however, Kirk slowly realized that it was highly possible that it was the way around in the gift-giving situation. In three moves he would've lost the game, which would've made it just fourteen moves all tolled for Spock to have won. No wonder Chekov and Sulu were grinning from ear to ear when he stood up from the table. In the morning he would have to go over the senior officer's schedules for the next month or so, he silently noted to himself as he settled back into the chair. With a soft harrumphing noise he gave the chessboards one final reprehensible look then let his gaze slide back up towards the tree.

He spotted it in less than three seconds. The well polished brass sparkled under a frosted yellow light, winking at the Captain as it ever so slightly swayed back and forth on the deep burgundy silk ribbon. It had taken him a few minutes to find what he considered the appropriate spot for it when he had come in to place it on the tree. His choice was intentionally made, placing it where he would be able to see everytime he found time to spend in the recreation room. Anytime he was caught up in a chess match, or just simply wanted a few minutes of retrospection he could just look above Spock's shoulder and see it glimmering there. His contribution to the good spirit and harmony of Christmas for this year. It was also his reminder of the sorrow that he had suffered during this year.

A sorrow that was his motivation for placing it on the tree, taking great pains to keep anyone from being aware it and the story that came with it. The item itself was personal, and he wanted to keep it as well as it's meaning only to him. And yet, this way he was celebrating Christmas in another way that hadn't occurred in years. Not since his last Christmas in that small farmhouse in Iowa.

A warmth spread over him covering the pangs of grief and traces of anger, as the memories of his youth filtered through. Snowy days with snow forts, a kitchen filled with the scent of baking spices, shiny wrapping paper, piles of mysterious boxes under a tree stationed in the corner, covered with ornaments and paper chains made at school, and the anticipation of what was ahead.

Time had slipped by until Kirk realized he had been sitting there caught in his world of childhood for nearly twenty minutes. He came to the present again at the thought of the last gathering that had taken place at Christmas in that house with the presence of the entire family. For a moment he stared blankly at the smears of bright lights, pursing his lips in a hard line of anguish.

Blinking away the unforeseen tears he slowly stood up walked back over to the tree and carefully slid the small object off the branch. Holding it in the palm of his hand he gazed at it recalling the moment that Peter had placed it there while they had been alone in his cabin. It had been only an hour before the boy had left the ship to stay with some Aurlean's family then going on to earth, less than six months ago. Peter hadn't said much during the trip after he had regain consciousness but somehow the boy had been aware of the distress that they both shared and found it necessary to in his own way to let the Captain know this.

The metal felt warm along his palm as he cautiously snapped open the small brass nautical compass the tense line pulling up into appreciative smile at the letters and numbers that were nearly faded on the face. The dial spun three quarters around before settling back down pointing straight towards the Captain. Snapping the lid shut, he ran his thumb over the lid then flipped it over and squinted at the scrolled engraving.

To: Peter

'So You Won't

Lose Yourself

Along the Way'

From: Dad

Flipping it back over the smile broaden another few centimeters as he realized it was the first Christmas he had shared with his brother in more years than he cared to recall. It had been better than he had originally expected, although the pain was still there as it would be for sometime. But he had found more in this Christmas than he had in the last few years. And like with his solitary trip down here, he would keep it to himself until he had been allowed to come to complete terms with Sam's death. As he clasped the compass in his hand and started to leave he was able to point out to himself, he had that much now and that was promising.