Jim gazed down lovingly at his sleeping First Officer, Spock's pallor even more evident against the crisp white bedding of his bio-bed at Starfleet Medical in San Francisco. He combed his fingers through errant black bangs, feeling utterly useless and, shamed as he was to admit it, disappointed. He and Spock were supposed to have been on a shuttle three days ago, headed for Risa and two weeks of sunny beaches and continuous love making on a reserved, private island. It had taken months of planning and an enormous amount of credits just to secure the destination, not to mention scheduling the various tours of the planet. I hope Nyota and Scotty have a good time, Jim thought with a resigned sigh.

It really wasn't the vacation Jim was mourning, but rather one well-coordinated evening of it in particular. He'd had it all planned out, from the lighting on the beach to the wine in their glasses…the words he would say and how he would say them. Now, however, the more he looked at Spock's unusually disheveled appearance, the further away 'forever' seemed to move. How was he supposed to propose koon-ut-so'lik now? He couldn't do it in a hospital, Spock deserved better—he deserved candlelight and fine, dark chocolate not sickbay over-heads and stale, replicated plomeek.

Still, he couldn't hold out any longer. After two years of hiding their relationship from Starfleet command while still commissioned on the Enterprise followed by eight months of thorough fucking planning…it was high time they made it official. At first, he hadn't had an issue with keeping their relationship under wraps—hell, he'd thought it was cheesily romantic—something only the two of them, save a handful of trusted friends, shared but…as time went by, and especially during those last few months before temporary ground assignment began, hiding it was less than ideal and more than stressful, especially where ogling diplomats were involved.

There was also the looming possibility of being forcibly separated, either for the sake of promotion or special assignment. There was more than one admiral with a taste for Spock in their mouth where training new recruits was concerned, especially considering many of them were Vulcan. Jim couldn't even fathom the possibility of entering the black without Spock beside him. The Enterprise needed its First Officer just as much as Jim needed the other half of his soul.

If they bonded, Starfleet could neither legally separate them nor discriminate against them in assignment, and so Jim was determined to start their next tour as Mister and Mister. If he waited until after the Enterprise set sail again, their relationship could be subjected to a formal inquisition where Starfleet could send out inspectors to make sure they hadn't married for any reason other than wanting to. It would never work, but there were certain unnamed admirals that would love nothing more than to watch intergalactic hero, James T. Kirk, squirm, even if just a little.

I'm…dreaming of a white Christmas…

Just like the ones I used to know.

Jim's ears perked up at the sound of Bing Crosby, flittering into the room from the hallway outside, striking him with a wave of nostalgia and sudden inspiration. He'd completely written Christmas off this year, having tolerated it for five years for the sake of his crew. It wasn't that he despised the holiday or the moral lessons of the religion that originally fueled it or anything like that. It was just that his memories of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which were supposed to be warm and fuzzy, were always and ever anything but. Still…Jim knew that Spock's mother had always celebrated and that since Jim had known him, Spock pointedly hadn't. The fact that Vulcan had ceased to exist around the time that they met, Spock's mother along with it, wasn't lost on Jim.

Where the tree tops glisten,

And children listen,

To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

The farm was his, left to him by his mother who'd died in space two and a half years ago and he'd paid for its renovations and upkeep without really questioning himself on why…by now, it would probably be covered in snow. Ben and Melissa, long time family friends of his father and the property's caretakers, would have everything turned down, just in case he decided to pop over. He'd done so a couple of times and he had to admit, the place always felt…homey these days.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,

With every Christmas Card I write.

I should do it, Jim thought to himself. So what if his childhood Christmases were atypically disappointing…that didn't mean he had to turn into the old man next door, screaming at kids to get off his lawn, right? Besides, it would be good for Spock…avoiding things that reminded him of his mother, almost six years later, probably wasn't healthy. Pot meet Kettle, he thought darkly. Jim hadn't actually stayed in his childhood home since he left Iowa more than eight years ago. It would be good for them both, he decided. Besides, he had seen Spock ogling the giant spruce in the center of campus, lit up like the huge Christmas tree it was, the day after Thanksgiving.

May your days be merry, and bright,

And may all your Christmases be white.

Jim bent forward to place gentle lips to his lover's forehead. It was about time they both had a good Christmas memory, and since Risa was out, home for the holidays it would be. Spock would still be hospitalized for the rest of the day and half of tomorrow. In the meantime, Jim had some preparations to make. Christmas was only four days away.

"Doctor…" Spock broke off with a wheezing cough, and then started again, "I am quite functional—"

"Give it a rest, hobgoblin," Bones interjected, thoroughly put out. "I know what you're playing at, and even though I'm sure Jim would appreciate the effort you're willing to make, you aren't fit for a stroll in a museum much less space travel."

Spock frowned, though given the current situation; he felt it was a justifiable slip. Perhaps, however, he should have waited until McCoy was out of the room.

"Oh, don't pout, Cinderella," McCoy grinned. "Prince Charming will be here to sweep you off your feet soon enough. Besides, he already gave away your tickets to Scotty and Uhura."

Spock fixed the doctor with a wide-eyed stare just as Jim appeared in the doorway, Kirkian grin soundly in place, brightening the room as well as the Vulcan's dark mood. "You're awake!" Jim beamed, taking a minute to appraise Spock's appearance with roving eyes, "Nice gown."

Spock's only response was an arched brow and a surly, "Indeed."

"Awe c'mon, baby, don't pout," he teased playfully, crossing the room.

Spock's glare alternated between the two humans, "Vulcans do not pout."

"Of course not," Jim appeased, seating himself beside his definitely-pouting-unVulcanly-Vulcan and turning his attention to the doctor. "So, what's the verdict, Bones?"

McCoy turned to his commanding officers with a med kit in hand, "Spock's prescription needs to be administered twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed."

Jim nodded, took the kit and started to rise, "Okay—"

"Not so fast," McCoy pushed him back down. "Bed rest for at least a week. Spock needs to take it easy on his respiratory system while it fights what's left of the infection and recovers, which means NO strenuous activities whatsoever."

"None whatsoever?" Jim questioned "What about short walks—"

"Normally, I'd say sure, but with knowing what you two consider a 'short walk,' definitely not. Around the house is fine—no outdoor hiking."

"Obviously, Bones, I'm not going to take Spock backpacking through the Appalachians. But…what about…other activities...?" Spock felt his cheeks tighten and heat with embarrassment at the implication of that particular question. Would this conversation never find an end?

"Goddamnit, Jim!" McCoy threw up his hands in annoyance, "some 'activity' is fine, just nothing stren-u-ous! Got it?!"

Spock's lover chuckled awkwardly, "I got it, I got it. Jeesh."

"Good," Bones harrumphed. "Now," he turned to Spock, pressing a hypo to his neck, "I hereby release you from confinement. Don't make me regret it."

"I am sorry," the tightly wound coil that was Spock finally spoke, followed by a fit of coughing. Spock had just been wheeled out of the hospital and settled into their vehicle, and he was already apologizing, an act that the Vulcan would claim as illogical any other day of the week. Jim wasn't about to mention that though, considering what happened the last time he teased Spock about his own inconsistencies where logic was concerned. If their colleagues thought the Vulcan was an unemotional plank of wood, they'd really love to see just how stolid and cutting he could be when he was pissed. Besides, now that they were a couple, these little slips of logic between them were hardly anything to bat an eyelash at.

Jim put the hover car back into park, "For what? Being sick?"

"Apologizing for that which one cannot control would be illogical. I am referring to the fact that a sickness on my part has interfered with our plans for shore leave," the Vulcan attempted to clarify.

"Uh…Spock, I'm pretty sure that's the same thing," Jim replied playfully, then continued before Spock could argue, "besides, nothing's been ruined!"

"Ashaya," Spock coughed again, "I am well aware of the time and credits that went into planning our vacation, and while I am confident that Nyota and Mr. Scott will enjoy themselves, it does nothing to assuage the fact that it should have been you and I on Risa four point three days ago."

"Alright," Jim sighed, resigned, then turned his full attention to his guilt-ridden lover, "I'm only going to say this once, and then I don't want to hear another word about Risa: It doesn't matter to me where we spend our shore leave or how, so long as we're together. I booked that vacation because I wanted to spoil you, because I felt like it, because I love you. But I can still spoil you here on Earth too—because I still feel like it, because I love you no matter what. I just hope you're 'amenable' to the new itinerary."

"I love you as well," Spock returned, "and…I will not mention Risa again, however…however, I am curious as to what you mean by 'new itinerary.'"

In answer, Jim put the hover car on manual and switched it into drive, "Don't worry about it. You just sit there and enjoy the ride. I've got everything under control."

Spock wanted to argue, but the medication the doctor had given him prior to discharge from the hospital was making him drowsy. "I will bow to your judgment on the matter," he conceded weakly, the motion of the vehicle lulling him to sleep a mere six minutes into their drive.

Jim glanced at Spock's sleeping form intermittently during the journey to Iowa, frowning at the soft wheezes that accompanied every rise and fall of his chest. Maybe Spock should have stayed in the hospital for an extra couple of days. Of course, Bones wouldn't have let him out if he didn't think Spock was up for it. Jim would just have to be sure to take extra care of his Vulcan until he was back to his 'maximum level of efficiency.' Jim found his smile again as he thought of Spock's impending shock when he woke up and realized where they were. Jim had never so much as even offered to take him to see the Kirk farm. There were pictures of it as part of the George Kirk exhibit at Starfleet's campus museum, but they were old. No one had really seen what Jim had paid to have done to it yet, aside from a few very close (read: nosey) friends, like Chris and Bones, and in truth he hadn't really changed much.

Jim had ordered new wooden floors and stairs throughout, fresh paint inside and out, new windows, doors, fixtures, installed a replicator and had the fireplace maintenanced and refinished. Still, everything was kept in the style of the farm house's original conception, just updated to include sonic alongside water showers, the latest in central heat and air and of course, the replicator and other more modern appliances. He'd also paid to have all the antique furniture refinished and reupholstered, something he knew Spock would appreciate. Jim had liked the end result, a subtle merger between two completely different periods.

Wanting to get there as quickly as possible, Jim switched the hover car to into hyperdrive and let it zip them through traffic, outside of the city and away from California. Landscape whizzed by outside, and Jim busied himself with a few quick tasks that would make his return to work in a couple weeks all the more bearable. Although, he was pretty sure he'd be dragging his feet no matter how little paperwork was waiting for him upon his return. A few hours later, when the hover car began to decelerate, Jim recognized the street immediately as the one he'd raced his father's car down all those years ago.

When they turned into the drive, the car came to a stop, and Jim took a deep calming breath. Quietly, he pushed open his door and climbed out, zipping up his jacket at the chill in the air. It wasn't that much colder than San Francisco had been that morning, but the difference was noticeable enough. Jim rounded the vehicle and opened the passenger side door, "Hey, Spock, up and at 'em."

Spock blearily blinked into wakefulness, sitting up slowly while his eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he took in his surroundings. "Jim, this is…"

"Yup," he interjected immediately, "the Kirk Family Farm—version two point oh."

Signature eyebrow quirked, Spock regarded his lover, "You have scarcely mentioned visiting this place in the time that I have known you, even though I am aware that you recently renovated it. Why now?"

"I thought that would be obvious," Jim smiled sheepishly. "I mean…it wasn't the place that I hated growing up, so much as the other person in it, and even then, when Mom would come home and Frank would take off, that's just what it was—home. I guess I just…I mean, if you want to, we could spend our vacation here and when you're better I'll show you all the places I used to haunt and we can spend Christmas here doing Christmas-y things..." There was a brief pause filled with an awkward chuckle, "What do you say?"

Spock's eyes, though still clouded with the misery of being sick, smiled softly back at Jim as he answered, "I would be amenable to that."

"Yeah?" Jim beamed. "Let's get inside then, it's freezing out here! I already brought over all of our stuff yesterday, so don't worry about a thing!"

There was little Spock could do in the face of Jim's obvious exuberance, and so he allowed his assistance out of the car and to the front porch. Certainly, he could have walked the distance without the aid of Jim's shoulder, but he found comfort in their closeness; in the ability to lower his shields slightly and enjoy the buzzing of Jim's happiness where their skin touched.

When they entered the main room, Spock's eyes widened in amazement, and after a brief coughing fit as a result of having breathed the cold air outside, he managed to utter a steady, "Fascinating."

"You like it?" Jim asked from behind as he stuffed their coats into the closet.

Spock felt that 'like' was a vast understatement. Jim was well aware of his interest in Earth history and while standing in the same room with so many remnants from it, he wasn't sure what to comment upon first—the fact that house itself seemed so much larger than the photos he'd seen, the plethora of Earth antiques, including the furniture and decorations, or the subtle inclusion of modern technology in an otherwise nineteenth century environment. It reminded Spock of the living museum he had visited during his first year at the academy, Greenfield Village, except less severe. Spock doubted they would be cooking their meals in the fireplace or dining by kerosene lamp. Still, it was, as human's say, like taking a step back in time, despite its modern amenities.

"It is…quite impressive," he finally replied. "There are many items in this room alone which I would wish to examine more closely, however—" he broke off with another wheezing cough, "I am still feeling the effects of Doctor McCoy's previous hypo-injection."

Jim's arms wrapped around him from behind, chin coming to rest upon Spock's right shoulder, "I promise you'll have plenty of time to check out every antique in the house." He pressed a quick kiss to Spock's temple, "For now, how about a sonic, a clean robe and a nice warm bed?"

"That would be agreeable," Spock admitted, begrudgingly. He knew that, once again, he was frowning just as he knew, from Jim's expression, that his mate was about to accuse him of pouting, "Do not say it."

Jim's smile grew even wider, "I didn't say anything. Come on, I'll show you up stairs."

The next morning, Spock awoke to the crumpled fabric of Jim's vacated side of the bed, but before he could wonder as to why Jim would awaken before 0600 on a Saturday, his ears caught the sound of porcelain and silver sliding on a surface and the soft treading of padded feet on wooden floors. Jim entered through the door a scant thirty-seven seconds later, carrying a tray of food.

"Oh good, you're up," Jim smiled warmly. "I was worried I'd have to rouse you with a hypo, you've been asleep for almost fourteen hours!"

"And you are awake uncharacteristically early," Spock deadpanned in return.

Jim took that as his cue to sit the loaded tray in the center of the bed, "Time well spent though, wouldn't you say?" He lifted a dome cover to reveal a steaming bowl of plomeek soup, "Non-replicated, by the way. I got the recipe from Selik while you were sleeping."

"Jim, you do not have to—" Spock began, but was silenced by a spoonful of soup being unceremoniously inserted into his mouth. Flavor burst over his tongue and his eyes closed of their own will, a sinfully pleasurable moan vibrating deep in his throat.

"What's that you were trying to say?" Jim smirked, "I didn't quite catch it…something about how I shouldn't have went through the trouble, right? But aren't you glad I did?"

"Yes," he admitted, one corner of his mouth upturned. He was about to take another bite when his lungs tightened and he coughed, though less harshly than the day before.

"That reminds me," Jim announced, hopping off the bed and grabbing the med kit McCoy had given them from the corner of the room, "time for your medication."

Spock sighed inwardly, but quietly allowed Jim to administer the hypo without protest. He did not wish to be drowsy again, but even more so, he did not wish to be stuck in Starfleet medical at the mercy of the Enterprise's CMO once again. The medicine was certainly the lesser of two negative options. "Thank you," Spock uttered politely, continuing to eat the meal Jim had prepared, and with gusto. He had not eaten beyond breakfast yesterday, a bowl of vegetable broth, but at the first taste of Jim's well-prepared plomeek Spock's appetite and hunger had returned quite enthusiastically.

Jim kissed him chastely on the forehead, then turned toward the door, "When you're finished with breakfast, come on downstairs. I've got something I want to show you."

Jim tightened the last screw of the tree holder against the trunk of the tree he'd gotten up before the crack of dawn to cut down and drag indoors. It was actually kind of fun when you were doing this stuff for someone other than an uncle you despised, Jim reflected. The way Spock had been eyeballing that tree every time they passed it on campus must have planted the idea in the back of his head, because the more he decorated for the Christmas holiday, the more excited he became about his lover's reaction. He knew it wouldn't be negative, knew that Spock had recovered from the loss of his mother to a point that this celebration together couldn't be anything but welcome…

With that knowledge, though, came a bit of guilt. He'd been gung-ho about spiriting them away for the holidays to a location where there would be no mention or sight of decorated trees, glowing lights or ivy and holly. Jim realized too, that he'd made all the plans for their trip to Risa on his own. Sure, Spock had been more than agreeable, but he hadn't contributed to its planning and Jim hadn't asked, which he now realized was more than a little presumptuous…but Spock was like that. He'd agree to anything Jim wanted to do and he wouldn't complain or so much as drop a hint if he himself weren't interested.

That's why he'd make sure that, despite his sickness, Spock would have the best Christmas experience Jim could give him, complete with home-cooked meals, snow (if he had to transport it in to Iowa from Antarctica, but he doubted he'd have to, given the tone of the weather right now) and carefully wrapped presents. That's where the tree came in...couldn't very well have Christmas gifts without a tree, could they? He'd already found several boxes of decorations in the basement and brought them up to the living room where they now sat, unopened as of yet, to the side of the crackling fire place.

Jim heard the top stair creak and rose from his crouching position at the base of the tree, backing away for a clear vision of Spock as he made his way down. Brown eyes immediately found the giant green spruce; widening a fraction in that subtle hint of surprise that Jim had been hoping to see. "What do you think?"

Spock regarded it a moment longer, before turning an inquisitive gaze in Jim's direction, "The tree is admirable, however, I must admit to a certain degree of confusion. You have confessed to me on multiple occasions that Christmas is among your least favorite holidays. Our originally planned vacation was scheduled for such a time and in such a location that we would not be privy to the holiday at all this year."

Jim shrugged, "Your point, Mr. Spock?"

Spock quirked a brow as he made his way to stand beside Jim in front of the tree, "I believe the human colloquium is, 'what gives,' ashaya."

Jim chuckled at the expression resignedly; he knew Spock was going to ask, but Jim was still working out all the reasons for his sudden Grinch-tacular turn around himself… "I don't know," he finally sighed. "It just came to me in the hospital while I was watching you sleep and I realized that lately…" Jim paused to grab one of his lover's hands, "I've been a selfish, prick, Spock. Don't look so taken aback."

"My apologies, however, I do not agree—"

"Of course you don't," Jim rolled his eyes. "I saw you, more importantly, I saw it—that look in your eyes when they lit up the tree on the Academy grounds."

Spock opened his mouth as if to debate, "Jim—"

"No, don't," Jim held up a silencing hand. "I know what you're going to say—that you were satisfied with the vacation I planned, that you were prepared to leave Earth and spend two weeks on Risa, which sure, would have been fun to do as a couple, but what you're really not saying when you say that is that you're satisfied with it, but not necessarily happy about it; that you're prepared for it, but not actually looking forward to it, right?"

When no answer was forthcoming, Jim knew he had hit the nail on the head. He placed both hands on either side of Spock's face, and kissed him lightly, resting their foreheads together afterward, "You can't do that, Spock. Please? If you wanted to stay on Earth and observe the holidays, I wish you would have said something to me."

"Jim," Spock coughed quietly, finding himself annoyed that he couldn't so much as have a conversation with becoming winded.

"Here," Jim led them to the couch. "Why don't we sit down?"

Once they were seated, Spock tried again, "You speak of your own selfishness, but to request to celebrate something which I know you do not enjoy, simply for my preference, would that not also qualify as selfish? It is not that I was not 'looking forward' to our vacation or that I would have preferred to observe Christmas rather than spend our days 'soaking in the sun' as you have said, but that I only want for us to be together.

"I do not care what we do, and while I appreciate that you recognized this desire within me and acted upon it in a display of your affection, it is unnecessary. These holidays do not hold the same emotional weight for you as they once did for me, and you are not obligated to—"

"No," Jim shook his head, "that's not it. I didn't wake up at 0400 to chop down a tree, drag it in here, make you breakfast and yank decorations out of the basement because I felt obligated, Spock, and I don't not like Christmas…" Jim scrubbed his face with the palm of his hand, "It's Bing Crosby's fault…damn White Christmas and suddenly I wanted to, and I thought you might want to too…that maybe we could use the opportunity to make a good memory of it, you know? Because I want to make good memories with you—do you get what I'm saying?"

Spock's eyes were dancing with amusement, "While much of what you just said was incoherent, I do believe I understand. It is also what I want."

"So you'll let me," Jim gestured at the tree and decorations.

Spock opened his mouth to respond, but was cut short by another fit of wheezing coughs. Jim disappeared into the kitchen and handed him a cup of warm tea upon his return which Spock sipped gratefully. "As I was about to say," he croaked, "I will even assist you."

"Great!" Jim beamed, feeling lighter than he had since Spock was first admitted to the hospital, "Why don't we finish this tree together? I'll run the lights and garland, and then you can help me hang ornaments."

"Very well," Spock agreed, reclining on the couch and pointedly eyeing Jim's backside, "I will…supervise."

Jim's laughter filled the room, and they settled into light conversation as Jim sifted through the various boxes for lights and garland. By the time the tree was wrapped with glowing lights and sparkling strands of garland, it was already late morning and almost time for lunch. Spock made to follow him into the kitchen, but a firm hand on the Vulcan's shoulder stalled the action. "No you don't. You're already looking like you need to lie down again. Let me get us lunch, you just relax."

Spock sighed, equal parts relieved and frustrated, "As you wish."

"It is what I wish," Jim bent over the Vulcan from behind, kissing him soundly on the lips before squeezing him in an embrace. "Let me take care of you." With a final, chaste kiss, Jim headed for the kitchen, leaving Spock wrapped in a blanket and feeling much lighter, despite the heaviness still settled in his lungs.

By the time evening rolled around, they had a fully decorated tree, complete with skirt, figurines, lights, garland, tinsel and shiny bulbs. There were even some crudely made picture ornaments of Jim and his late brother, George—the result of ambitious art teachers in second and third grade—which Spock had insisted they hang. "I grieve with thee," Spock had said earlier, watching Jim fiddle with one of the ornaments that held a picture of his deceased brother.

Jim had turned to him with a watery smile, "Thank you. It's not…it's hard even for me to understand how I feel about what happened there."

Spock had ran gentle fingers through Jim's hair, where his lover's head rested on his lap, "I would meld us, and share your pain, if you would allow it."

Jim opened his eyes and reached up to wind a hand around the back of Spock's neck. "I would like that," Jim admitted, "but not tonight, not while you're still sick." And also, not before I ask you to marry me, he didn't say. Instead, Jim had gone on to share the happier moments of him and George's raucous childhood. He kept it light, just the good times—when their mother was home between missions, school yard antics and Halloween pranks on the neighbors.

They'd taken turns exchanging lighter stories, some they'd already shared, while others were new and bittersweet. Spock had, of course, dozed on and off throughout, whenever they would lapse into a companionable silence as Jim arranged the various tree trimmings, until it came time to hang the ornaments. Jim hadn't missed the softness around Spock's eyes or the way his hands lingered on some of the bulbs as he placed them on the tree. He could tell his Vulcan was feeling nostalgic about his mother, but not in a way that was painful and that helped Jim feel more confident that he hadn't pushed the envelope by celebrating this year. Aside from the fact that it was due to Spock's illness, he was grateful they hadn't made it to Risa after all. They both needed this more than they needed a private beach.

Jim let out a low whistle after plugging in the lights, the bulbs and sliver tinsel reflecting the various colors into the room in that way a well-lit Christmas tree does. "What do you say, First Officer? Is she a beauty or what?"

Jim waited for a response that didn't come before turning around to find Spock sound asleep on the couch. With a light a chuckle and a soft sigh, he approached his exhausted lover, "Ah, Spock." He gently rearranged arms and limbs until his bondmate-to-be was lying comfortably on the couch, head supported by a plethora of throw pillows and covered in Jim's favorite down comforter. Before heading upstairs for some extra blankets so he could sleep in the nearby recliner, he sat to admire Spock, illuminated by the soft, bright colors cast over his features by the tree. He hoped they hadn't overdone it today.

Unfortunately, as Jim had suspected the night before, Spock had overdone it. Their second day farm, which also happened to be Christmas Eve, saw the Vulcan spending the majority of the day in bed, sleeping mostly. Jim had managed to rouse Spock a couple times, just long enough for light conversation, tea and soup. By early evening, Jim was once again worried that maybe they'd jumped the gun in discharging him from the hospital.

"Just make sure he gets enough fluids," Bones lectured over the comm. "And not just tea—he needs to be drinking plenty of water. Are you giving him his medication?"

"Yeah, though…does it need to be at the exact same time? He went to bed early last night, so I had to give it to him earlier, you know?"

"That's fine," Bones nodded. "Just keep the doses at least eight hours apart."

"Okay. What about food?" Jim asked worriedly. "I know he liked the plomeek I made, but—"

"Plomeek is fine," McCoye reassured, "and he can have some raw fruits and vegetables, too, if he's feeling up to it. He's not on any food restrictions."

"That's the thing," Jim replied miserably, "he's not 'feeling up' to anything right now. I think maybe he should have stayed in the hospital for a couple more days…"

Bones chuckled, "Jim, he's fine. That's why it's called 'bed rest.' His body just needs a little extra recovery time. I'm monitoring his vitals right now, and I'm telling you, he's recovering just fine—better, in fact, than two days ago."

"Really? You're sure?" Jim felt some small measure of relief creep into his shoulders. "I—"

'Daddy, daddy,' the high-pitched squeal of an eight year old Joanna sounded in the background on McCoy's side of the comm. "I'll be there in just a second, sweetheart, I promise. Daddy's just wishin' Uncle Jim a Merry Christmas."

"I'm sorry, Bones," Jim felt miserable. "I don't mean to interrupt your time with Jo."

"Don't worry about it," McCoy shrugged off Jim's apology. "I know how it is. The hobgoblin'll be just fine, so quit worrying so much."

"Alright, alright," Jim sighed. "You're right. It's just…he's never been sick before."

"Well, maybe not sick, but he's sure as hell been in worse physical condition," Bones pointed out. "Besides, you're there to take care of him, and I wouldn't have released him to your care if I didn't think you were capable."

Jim's eyes shined and his face broke into a warm smile, "Thanks, Bones."

"Don't mention it," the doctor replied. "Now, don't forget what I said—deep, steady breaths, posture and clarity."

"Shut up, Bones," Jim groaned embarrassed by his friend's cheerleading. I never should have told him… "I know how to do it."

"Sure, sure," McCoy rolled his eyes, "that's what they all say, and then before you know it, they're down on one knee and frozen there—slack jawed, sweaty palmed—the whole shebang!"

"Save the advice for your daughter," Jim shot back.

McCoy's eyes hardened, his lips thinned and he paled slightly, "Don't say it! Jo's never getting married and that's that, goddamnit."

"You're probably right..." Jim chuckled, "one look at her old man and all bets will be off."

"Enough you," Bones growled. "Don't you have a bedridden Vulcan to torture somewhere in that cabin in the woods of yours?"

"It's a farm, asshole!" Jim glared.

"Farm, cabin—whatever," Bones smirked. "I can still hear Deliverance playing in the background!" And with that, the comm went black, McCoy's signature strategy for getting the last word.

Bastard, Jim thought fondly as he turned his attention to the kitchen where the ingredients to his grandmother's homemade cocoa were laid out. Spock was going to love it; he was sure, especially the marshmallows. The Vulcan had a thing for them, ever since he and Bones had taken him camping for the first time. Of course, Jim had almost chocked to death, on a hotdog no less, when Spock had replicated one and popped it onto a sharpened stick. Camping was supposed to be his thing, and here Spock had come prepared with s'mores and all, the sneak. It was one small thing of many…but in every one of them, Jim could sometimes catch a glimpse of Selik in his Spock, and it warmed him to think about it.

"It is quite pleasing," Spock sighed, his eyes closed, "however, it would be unwise to consume such a large quantity at this time."

"I know," Jim reassured, assisting Spock in his attempt to place the mug of cocoa back onto the bedside table. "I wanted to give you something to help you relax. Are you feeling any better?"

"Indeed," Spock replied. "I regret that I have, 'slept the day away,' I believe is the appropriate colloquium."

Jim chuckled, a sound that soothed Spock more than the effects of the cocoa. He had awakened sometime during Jim's conversation with Doctor McCoy, and while he hadn't intentionally eavesdropped, his Vulcan audition was such that it could not be avoided. The evident concern in Jim's questions and tone had only increased his sense of guilt at their current predicament. Jim would have no need for worry—would not need concern himself with Spock's health if only their plans had gone accordingly. Certainly, Jim had seemed content enough to change their plans in favor of seeing to Spock's care and celebrating the Terran holiday Christmas, but had he not become ill…

"Spock?" Jim's voice sounded in a whisper, just to the left of his ear, "Stop that."

Spock turned his head the necessary thirty degrees in order to meet Jim's stare, "I do not know to what you are referring. I was merely—"

Jim silenced him with a kiss, a real one. Since the start of his illness, their physical contact had been chaste, even by Vulcan standards. "Mmmmph," he involuntarily moaned when Jim's tongue finally slid against his own. His body was just beginning to react, when his lover abruptly pulled away. Spock attempted to follow the retreating mouth, only to be stilled by firm hands on his shoulder.

"Whoa, Nelly," Jim chortled. "I want to," Spock followed the blonde's quick glance to the tenting of his flannel pajama bottoms, "obviously, I want to, but it's a bad idea. You've been out all day, you're still wheezing and I promised Bones that I wouldn't subject you to anything 'strenuous.'"

Spock could hardly contain an inward sigh, his control slipping slightly due to the recent lack of meditation, and he pursed his lips to prevent it from escaping. Perhaps a different approach would be more effective, "Ashaya, plea—"

He was unceremoniously interrupted by Jim's cry of frustration, "Damn it, don't do that!"

Spock raised a cursory eyebrow, "I assure you, I do not—"

"Don't pout," Jim whined, "and for fuck's sake, don't say please! I can't handle it…I just…can't…"

Recognizing a weak spot when presented with one, Spock pounced, his hand gently snaking up Jim's thigh. "Please," he whispered breathily.

"Spock!" His human whispered shakily before bounding from the bed, taking a few calming breaths, "I can't believe you…fuck!" He paced the floor an exact three times before calmly returning to the bed. "Okay," slowly, he brought their lips together once again, this time gently, but exacting just the right amount of pressure to make it inciting rather than chaste.

"Jim…" Spock breathed when his lips were once again unoccupied, his head thrown back to allow his mate better access to his throat. He wanted nothing more than to roll them over and assume a more active role, but Jim's heady voice halted his action.

"Don't," Jim ordered, fingers deftly working to unclasp the buttons of Spock's pajama shirt. "Just…let me."

Spock could not find the words to argue, his body having missed his lover's touch for one point two weeks, ever since he'd begun to show signs of contracting the respiratory infection from which he was now recovering. All shadows of cognizant thought fled his mind as a warm mouth closed over the bud of his left nipple, sucking and nibbling for long moments before moving on to the next. He felt himself being guided down into a prone position on his back, and opened his eyes to see Jim licking lower, hot tongue dipping into his belly button.

He focused on controlling the pace of his breathing and measuring each intake of oxygen, so as to prevent another coughing spell. Jim's thumbs hooked under the elastic band of his pants, only pulling them down far enough to free Spock's erection. "Jim…"

"Shhh…" warm breath skimmed across the head of his penis, Jim's voice low and sultry as he spoke, "Right now, it's all about you. No arguments." And with that, Spock was swallowed whole, hips jerking at the sudden shock of sensation.

It had been far too long since they'd last been intimate and within minutes Spock could already feel his climax building. Jim's mouth was relentless, sliding up and down the length of him, tongue swirling around the tip and licking at his slit where his cock wept its appreciation. If they were bonded, Spock would be able to fuse their lust and share his pleasure with Jim. As it was, he could only pick up on the surface of his thoughts—love (always at the forefront of Jim's mind), lust, admiration, desire—it was just enough to push him over the threshold.

By the time Spock's heart rate had returned to normal, Jim had managed to clean and redress him. He regarded his lover with no small amount of confusion, "Jim, you have yet to—"

He was silenced by a slow shaking of the head, "I told you, this was for you. I'll be fine."

Despite his own exhaustion, he attempted to argue the matter further. It wasn't fair to Jim, regardless of what he had to say to the contrary, "Ashayam—"

"Nope," his mate insisted, pulling the covers back over Spock's hips. "But don't worry. I'm saving it up for when you're better."

He did not resist when Jim brought the warm cup of cocoa to his mouth for a long sip, nor utter another word as gentle lips pressed to his forehead. The endorphins produced from his climax coupled with the warmth of the blankets and chocolate was lulling him once more into a recuperative slumber. He felt the other side of the bed compress and inhaled deeply of Jim's scent, an arm hooking around him from behind and soft breaths tickling the back of his neck. Spock fell asleep, utterly content.

It had snowed…a lot. Jim stared out the window on Christmas morning in awe at the transformed landscape. It was going to be a good day. That snow was screaming to be molded into a snowmen—one human, and one Vulcan. But first, he would make Spock toast and cinnamon oatmeal with a glass of hot tea for breakfast. Then, he'd give the Vulcan his present—

No…maybe after lunch, once he'd had an opportunity to gauge Spock's condition…see if he was feeling better today. Sometime in the evening, Jim nodded to himself, just before—no—after dinner. Yeah, definitely after dinner, in front of the fireplace with the tree lit up and lights turned down. Jim was picturing his proposal in his mind and going over the words one more time, completely caught up in his plans.

He yelped—there was really no other word for it—when strong, sure arms wrapped around him from behind and warm lips brushed his temple. Time seemed to slow abruptly at the contact and Jim's knees buckled as something akin to an electric current passed between them. The next thing Jim knew, he was on the floor, leaning back against the wall as his eyes blinked repeatedly, trying to bring the image in front of him into sharper focus. "Wha…"

"Jim?" Spock's voice seemed to echo from far away. Something sharp stung at his neck and he swatted at it, or he tried to at least; His arms sort of felt like jell-o. Slowly, the edges of Spock's concerned expression and kneeling form began to clarify and his body began to feel less and less like a wet noodle.

"Ashaya, are you all right?" Spock's voice, clear and concerned washed over him.

"I…" he inhaled deeply, "I think so. What the hell happened? What was that?"

"It…" Spock's brown eyes were clouded with guilt as he contemplated his words. Finally he continued, "The fault was mine. I awoke some time ago and realized that my body was functioning within normal parameters. I had thought to surprise you. I did not realize…it was not my intention…"

"To what?" Jim chuckled when Spock hesitated, "Knock me on my ass? I'm fine now, it's okay."

"I did not meditate before seeking you out," Spock continued as if Jim had not spoken at all. "When I touched you, I...our minds, as you know, are exceedingly compatible and my shields were not in place. I did not mean to…see."

"See?" Jim's eyes went wide, quickly betraying his disappointment. "You…saw my thoughts? Meaning…you know, don't you?"

"I…" Spock averted his gaze, adopting a complete mask of stoicism. "I do not know to what you are referring."

"Vulcans can't lie and half-Vulcan are shitty at it," Jim sighed. There was an awkward silence between them then, something that hadn't happened in years, as Jim stared at his lover's rigid posture. Was Spock afraid that he wouldn't ask now, Jim wondered? And then it hit him, "What exactly about you seeing my thoughts caused me to…pass out?" He wasn't about to admit to fainting.

Spock's control really was in tethers, Jim observed, watching in delight as a faint green blush crept onto Vulcan cheeks and pointed ears. Those brown eyes studiously remained averted, "Emotional transference."

Jim's ear-splitting grin spoke to his satisfaction with the admission, "Meaning that I as good as swept you off your feet with my proposal."

"In actual fact, you have not yet done so," Spock quickly, but quietly pointed out.

"Spock," Jim moved to his knees, reaching out a hand to gently graze dark bangs and draw the Vulcan's eyes to his own, "Koon-ut-so'lik, beloved." Jim could feel his face burning, having spewed such uncharacteristic romantic prose, never mind that it was technically only two words, and hoped that in the coming years he'd at least be able to imagine this moment as flawless—a testament to his godlike smoothness. His hands were shaking. Christ.

Still, the small but actual smile on Spock's face was worth it. The slow, purposeful way in which Spock pulled him from the floor and held him in the middle of the room made Jim's heart melt. So, maybe it hadn't happened the way he'd originally planned…or even subsequently planned, but he found that it didn't matter.

"Uh," Jim smiled into the Vulcan's neck, "you haven't technically accepted, you know…"

Spock retreated from their embrace just far enough to see Jim's face and bring their lips together for a soft kiss. He then twined their index and middle fingers together, "I accept thee James Tiberius Kirk as bondmate now and always."

And maybe it was that fact that it was Christmas and he was finally 'feeling the spirit', or the sight of snow falling softly outside so pristine and picturesque…or maybe it was just Spock. The newfound security that came with knowing that from now on they'd be inseparable in more ways than one; that he could truly claim the Vulcan as his.

Whatever it was, for the first time in Jim Kirk's life, he felt at peace. "Hey Spock?"

"Yes, Jim?"

"Have I ever told you that Christmas is my favorite holiday?"