By Gamin Davis

Pre-TOS S, Sa, Am, K, Mc, Ch; [G]

SUMMARY: Spock reflects on the one Christmas his mother wasn't able to spend
on Earth, and how he and Sarek collaborated on a special Christmas present
to cheer her up.

DISCLAIMER: For lo, the Deity Paramount doth own these characters; I do but
frolic briefly with them in their playground

Even in the 23rd century, some things never changed; one of these was the Earth/ Human tradition of celebrating Christmas, a tradition still practiced by most Humans, wherever they might find themselves when that time of year came around.  So it was that the crew of the Enterprise were now preparing for a very special Christmas.  This year, for the first time in as long as any of them could remember, they were spending Christmas at a starbase, instead of on a mission for Starfleet.  Most of the crew, including the regular Bridge crew, were now on leave.
A select few had chosen to spend their Christmas leaves on the Enterprise: Spock, who was determined to remain as far removed from this illogical celebration as possible, and Kirk, McCoy and Christine Chapel, who were all equally determined to get Spock involved.  Spock did his best to ignore them, but their persistence was beginning to raise troubling questions within him.  The four of them were sitting together in a Rec Room, eating lunch, when McCoy decided to broach the subject one more time: "I take it you never celebrated Christmas," he ventured, looking at Spock.
"No, Doctor; however, my mother celebrated it, on Earth, with her relatives…so I am somewhat familiar with the customs involved," Spock replied quietly, not looking up.
"Spock, it's Christmas Eve.  The party's tonight.  I really wish you'd change your mind," Kirk added sincerely, regarding his First Officer pleadingly.
Spock looked up finally, reluctantly returning his gaze, and shook his head.  "I have much work to do, Captain," he returned calmly, but with a certain uneasiness which he knew Kirk would see in his manner, despite his efforts to the contrary.
"'Work'?" McCoy repeated incredulously.  "You're on leave, for God's sake!  What 'work' could possibly be so important that--?"
"Bones, that's enough," Kirk cut in abruptly, in resignation.  "If he doesn't want to come, we can't force him to."  He said nothing more about it for the rest of the meal, but he was unable to hide his disappointment as easily as McCoy and Christine appeared to.
Afterwards, Spock returned to his quarters, still troubled and somewhat confused.  He went to his bed and sat down, reaching down behind the bed and picking up a small, colorfully-wrapped box.  It was something he had purchased for Kirk just after they arrived at Starbase 20, in a moment of weakness.  Since exchanging gifts was the only Christmas custom that Spock even marginally understood, he had allowed himself to get Kirk a present (knowing it would come as a pleasant surprise to his Captain)--but vowing to himself that that would be the full extent of his acknowledgement of this strange Human holiday, a vow he had so far kept.
Spock stared thoughtfully down at the package, thinking back to his childhood, and to the one Christmas his mother had not been able to celebrate on Earth…

*    *    *    *    *    *

Amanda was sitting curled up on the sofa, looking out the window--as she had been doing for most of the last few days.  Sarek and Spock watched her worriedly from across the room.  "What is wrong with Mother?" Spock asked anxiously.
For once, Sarek saw no need to scold his small son for the emotion apparent in his voice.  "She is…unhappy…because she cannot return to Earth this year to spend Christmas with her sister," he explained quietly.  "Her sister, your aunt, is ill and does not wish to have visitors."
Spock knew very little about Christmas, except that it was a very important holiday among Humans, though his mother was usually forced to let it pass without any formal acknowledgement, in deference to Vulcan custom.  Yet, she always seemed to know when the "Christmas Season" approached--or when it would have if she'd been on Earth.  Something about it had always seemed to make her happy; she was usually in such a good mood as the time drew closer, and puttered around the house smiling a lot and humming things she called "Christmas carols".  But not now.  This year was supposed to have been different.  This year, Aunt Elizabeth had invited his mother back to Earth for a Christmas celebration with her family.
Slowly, Spock walked across the room and went to her side, trying to think of something that would cheer her up; finally, deciding it would help her to talk about it with someone, he said, "Tell me about Christmas, Mother.  How is it celebrated?"
Amanda turned toward him, smiling faintly in appreciation of Spock's efforts to console her, as he sat down next to her.  "Well, Spock…I suppose it's the most illogical, un-Vulcan thing you could imagine.  We always celebrate it in the middle of winter, so where my family lives, there's usually snow on the ground; we decorate the house with ribbons and holly…and, of course, a tree covered with ornaments and lights.  A party on Christmas Eve…then opening the presents Christmas morning.  But the most important thing is…to be able to share it all with your loved ones.  There are few things worse than having to spend Christmas alone," she reflected wistfully.  "I wish we both could have gone, Spock.  I think you would have enjoyed it."
Spock took some time to consider this all very carefully.  "Father said it was a religious holiday," he recalled finally, puzzled.
"It is.  It just happens to be special enough to us to have evolved into something more than the usual religious holiday," Amanda replied easily, no longer watching Spock, but staring at some point off in space.
"Do all Humans celebrate it in the same way?" Spock asked curiously.
Amanda shook her head. "Not entirely.  Some of the customs vary, depending on where you live…all that really matters is that all your family and friends are there with you."
Sarek continued to watch them silently from across the room, grateful for once for Spock's Human half and the instinct it seemed to give him for knowing just what to say sometimes to comfort his mother; it would not have occurred to Sarek that just talking about Christmas would help Amanda any.  Perhaps, he reflected, it was because Amanda knew that Spock had a genuine interest in the holiday--an interest born of the curiosity he still maintained, despite Sarek's best efforts to dispel it, about the Human customs and traditions that his mother followed. 
Sarek had hoped it was a curiosity his son would quickly outgrow after the Kahs-wan ordeal and his Life's Decision favoring Vulcan philosophy…but that had been over three years ago, Spock now being the Vulcan equivalent of ten years old, and the curiosity still existed within him.  The only difference was that he had become a little more adept at hiding it from his father.
However--Spock (for once) wasn't the problem, now; Amanda was.  Sarek sincerely hoped this would be the last they would see of the depression that had descended upon her since the arrival of the stargram from her sister Elizabeth a few days ago, saying that her whole family was down with an ancient Terran malady known as "the flu" and they could not have visitors for Christmas.  Amanda and Spock were still talking when Sarek finally left the parlor, feeling the need to meditate for a while.

But Amanda's depression continued, though she made a valiant attempt to hide it from her husband and son, passing her time as normally as possible, as if nothing was wrong.  Sarek and Spock knew that all was not as it seemed, however; Sarek decided finally that he and Amanda needed to talk, though he wasn't quite sure what to say.  He went to sit beside her as she sat again on the sofa before one of the large parlor windows.  "Amanda …you simply cannot continue in this manner," he chided her gently.  "I realize you wanted to spend Christmas with Elizabeth, but you know the situation as well as I do.  There is nothing either of us can do to change it, so I see no logic in--I believe the expression is--'moping about the house' and refusing to accept it."
Amanda spared him a tolerant look.  "I know that, Sarek.  I can't expect you to understand; to you, it's just another illogical Terran holiday, something I was supposed to have given up along with my emotions when I married you and accepted life on Vulcan."  As an accusation, it was both unfair and untrue--and she knew it as well as Sarek--but Amanda was frustrated, unhappy and looking for someone to blame.  And at the moment, Sarek seemed the most convenient target.
After all, a once-a-year trip back to Earth to see her sister didn't seem like that much to ask.  It wasn't as if Amanda had intended to take Spock with her; after his one and only visit with Aunt Elizabeth and cousin Jonathan last year--something Sarek still viewed as a debacle (what with Spock spending most of it happily running and playing like any Human child--which, of course, was out of the question for a Vulcan of any age)--she knew better than to even ask his permission.  Elizabeth had come up with the idea of yearly Christmas visits shortly thereafter, and Sarek--after ascertaining that these visits would not involve Spock, since he believed his son had been "confused" (which Amanda read as "contaminated") enough by his one previous visit--had agreed to it.
And now that Amanda could not go, she fully expected an it's-probably-just-as-well attitude from Sarek.
Sarek, however, merely shook his head and turned away, getting up.  It was pointless to try to talk to her in the mood she was in now--at least for him, since he seemed not to know the right words to do anything but make the situation worse; clearly, Amanda would have to pull herself out of this, and Sarek just hoped she would do so soon.
On the way out of the parlor, he passed Spock, who had been watching from just inside the door as they talked.  Spock followed his father back down the hall toward Sarek and Amanda's bedroom.  "Can we not do something to help Mother?" Spock asked, having become increasingly concerned as Amanda's depression continued.
"No, Spock.  I am afraid this is something she must work out for herself," Sarek replied regretfully, sighing.
Spock followed him into the bedroom.  "I still think we should try to help her," he opined hesitantly.
Sarek sat on the edge of the bed, regarding his son understandingly.  "Come here, Spock."
Spock obeyed, coming to stand before his father, as close to him as he dared.
"What your mother is experiencing now is not something either of us can help her with.  We would have to be…Human, I suppose…to fully understand it," Sarek explained gently.  "It is customary among Humans to celebrate Christmas with one's family; those who are unable to do so--who have no family or friends, or for whatever reason are not with them at this time--suffer great…emotional distress…so your mother's current difficulties are not uncommon.  But they will pass; we must be patient."
"She said it was a special holiday…" Spock recalled distractedly, thinking.  Suddenly, he looked back up at Sarek.  "You said Humans celebrate Christmas with their families."
Sarek nodded, eyeing his son warily.  "They do."
"But we are Mother's family," Spock pointed out.  "Could we not have Christmas here, this year?"
Sarek had been afraid this idea would occur to Spock.  "We are Vulcans, Spock.  We do not celebrate Christmas," Sarek reminded him quietly.
"But Mother is Human, and she needs our help.  Please, Father--just this once," Spock pleaded.  "She always sounds so…happy…when she talks about Christmas.  I think she would enjoy it."
Sarek remembered his futile attempt to comfort Amanda; logic, whatever its value in normal day-to-day Vulcan life, was clearly not the answer now.  Suddenly, Spock's suggestion didn't seem so unthinkable.  Perhaps following Human customs would be more logical than following Vulcan customs to help Amanda now.  Just this once.  Reaching a decision, Sarek looked his son in the eyes.  "If I agree to this, I want it clearly understood that it is being done only to benefit your mother because she cannot return to Earth this year to celebrate the holiday properly.  It will not be repeated; Vulcans do not celebrate Human holidays."
"I understand, Father," Spock replied, barely containing his eagerness.
"Very well…" With a sigh of resignation, Sarek fell silent for a time, considering the matter.  "At the moment, neither of us knows enough about Christmas to prepare for it properly," he noted thoughtfully.
"I know a little about it, and I am sure Mother would be willing to tell me more if I asked her," Spock offered helpfully.
"Indeed."  And Amanda would be much less suspicious if such inquiries were made by Spock rather than me, Sarek realized.  "Very well, that responsibility will be yours.  Now, we have little time; Christmas on Earth would be…in approximately two weeks.  Therefore, I suggest we get started."

And so preparations went forth--and for one of the few times in his life, Spock found himself working with his father to achieve a common goal, instead of being at odds with him.  As they had both anticipated, Spock had no trouble getting Amanda to discuss Christmas with him; Spock simply gave free reign to his natural curiosity about Human customs, and Amanda, pleased to have someone to talk to who was genuinely interested in hearing about it, willingly obliged.
It was during this time, in fact, that she finally began to accept the situation, contenting herself with reliving past Christmases for Spock.  This acceptance only made Spock and Sarek more determined than ever to succeed in producing for her some kind of ersatz Christmas celebration here on Vulcan, knowing that Amanda's happiness and surprise would be all the greater.  Spock's interest was so satisfying to Amanda that she never noticed his long disappearances, or Sarek's, or the fact that they both seemed to be gone at the same time; she kept too busy reading, puttering around her garden, or looking through old photo albums until Spock returned and was ready to talk again.
Spock and Sarek, meanwhile, were having problems simulating Christmas decorations from the limited source material available to them; innumerable shopping expeditions only resulted in further proof that Vulcans made few decorative items that were not also functional--and none of the purely decorative items seemed appropriate for Christmas.  Forced to improvise by making the decorations themselves, Spock and Sarek became a two-Vulcan floating Christmas factory, picking up and moving lock, stock and construction paper every time Amanda wandered into the area where they were working.
By the time Amanda finally realized that something funny was going on, all that was left for them to take care of was the relatively simple matter of buying Christmas presents.  Spock was allowed to get his own presents for each of his parents, and Sarek got gifts for Spock and Amanda (including one totally illogical and functionless present--from one of the import shops near Vulcan Space Central--for Spock on Amanda's behalf).  What proved not to be so simple was sneaking said unwrapped presents past Amanda, who, determined to find out what they were up to, had taken to spying and lying in wait behind closed doors; on more than one occasion, Spock had to distract her with more talk of Christmas so Sarek could sneak past with the presents and get them hidden.
Finally, the day arrived which Sarek had calculated to coincide with Christmas Day on the part of Earth where Amanda's family lived.  He got up shortly after dawn, being careful not to disturb Amanda, dressed silently, then left the room and went to wake Spock up.  "It is time," he announced quietly.  "Is everything ready?"
Spock was still rubbing sleep out of his eyes as he climbed out of bed.  "Yes, Father.  I finished the ornaments last night," he replied, trying and failing to stifle a yawn.
"Good.  Then let us get everything set up while your mother is still asleep--and quietly, Spock.  This entire project will be rendered pointless if she wakes up before we are prepared," Sarek told him.
Spock dressed hurriedly, and the two of them quickly but carefully proceeded with the preparations.  In order to make Amanda's surprise as surprising as possible, they had waited until now to actually put up the decorations--thereby negating the possibility of Amanda discovering them before Christmas and realizing what Spock and Sarek were up to.  The decorations turned out to be centered in one small area of the garden, since that was the location of the nearest thing they had to a Christmas tree.
A couple of hours later, they had finally finished.  Sarek gave the result of their efforts a last, doubtful looking-over; they had tried to decorate as much as possible in accordance with Spock's interpretations of what Amanda had told him about Christmas, but so many substitutions had had to be made for things not available on Vulcan that it didn't look too convincing, even to Sarek.  He turned to Spock.  "Does this…resemble any of your mother's descriptions?"
Spock looked around, also.  "Somewhat…but not exactly," he admitted, remembering the pictures Amanda had shown him of Christmases during her childhood.  What they had assembled here was a poor imitation; he could only hope his mother would accept the gesture in the spirit in which it was intended.
Sarek echoed his thoughts.  "In any case, it will have to do--since it is all we can do.  I trust it will have the desired effect."  He paused, looking toward up toward the terrace in anticipation.  "Stay here, and I will get your mother."

He found Amanda still asleep in their bedroom, sat down beside her, and began trying to wake her up, first rolling her over on her side, then gently shaking her.  "Amanda."
Amanda mumbled something unintelligible and turned away from him.
Sarek simply rolled her back over again.  "Amanda, it is time for you to get up," he told her softly.
Amanda stretched, rubbing her eyes, and looked up at him.  "Not interested," she returned groggily.  "You know what day this is--or was supposed to have been.  Let me sleep, Sarek."  She started to close her eyes again.
"No, my wife," Sarek repeated firmly, taking her by the shoulders and lifting her up into a sitting position.
She looked up at him in bewilderment.  "Sarek--?"
Sarek pulled her gently up out of bed.  "Now please get dressed as quickly as possible."
"What for?" Amanda demanded, then looked at him pleadingly.  "Please…I just want to sleep.  I don't want to be reminded--if I could, I'd skip this day entirely and not wake up 'til tomorrow.  As it is--"
"Do as I say.  You will soon change your mind," Sarek interrupted knowingly.
Amanda regarded him doubtfully for a moment, then finally complied.  "Now what?" she asked, then.
"Come with me."

Sarek led her out of the bedroom, down the hall, and out the door onto the terrace.  "Sarek, what are we doing out here?  Where are you taking me?" Amanda asked, as they went down the steps into the garden.
"All in good time," Sarek replied cryptically, continuing deeper into the garden.
Amanda followed him curiously.
They stopped finally, and Amanda stared in shock at the sight before her.  Her eyes fell first upon the tree, a Vulcan species whose name she could never remember or pronounce; she called it a "spike tree", because the branches went out and straight up at ninety degree angles, ending in points, the entire tree black and normally bare, except for a sprinkling of small flowers here and there.  Now, however, it was covered with every manner of colorful paper decoration, living flower and greenery garlands, even a gold metallic star on top--and underneath were several neatly-wrapped presents.  Spock was standing beside the tree, wearing a very un-Vulcan expression of hopeful pride.
Shock changed first to realization, then to understanding within Amanda; she turned to Sarek with an expression that was half-astonishment and half-joy.
"I believe the appropriate expression is…'Merry Christmas', Amanda," Sarek responded quietly.
"Oh, Sarek…" Amanda impulsively threw her arms around his neck.
Sarek was so pleased and relieved by her reaction that he actually responded, putting his arms gently around her back and holding her.  "I regret being unable to simulate snow…" he began apologetically.
"It doesn't matter," Amanda interrupted reassuringly, hugging him briefly.  "I'm so sorry for the things I said about you not understanding Christmas.  I've never been so wrong in my life," she added sincerely, looking up at Sarek.  "Can you forgive me?"
Sarek gave her a tiny smile.  "There is nothing to forgive, my wife.  Your… emotionalism…was understandable, under the circumstances."
"Speaking of emotionalism," Amanda quipped good-naturedly, looking down at Spock, then back up at Sarek, "I assume you realize you're setting a bad example for our son."
Sarek released her finally, cocking an anticipatory eyebrow at Spock.  "If you have not already corrupted him beyond hope, nothing I do should have any adverse influence upon him."
Amanda laughed now, for the first time since before the stargram from Elizabeth had come.
Spock reached down and picked up one of the presents--then, sensing that on this one occasion, Sarek wouldn't object--smiled slightly as he handed it to Amanda.  "Merry Christmas, Mother," he offered softly.
They spent the rest of the morning unwrapping presents while Spock and Sarek enthusiastically related to Amanda how they had managed to arrange all this over the last couple of weeks.  Amanda had been taught a lesson she would remember for the rest of her life: never again would she fear having to spend Christmas on Vulcan--though there turned out to be no opportunity, since she was able to spend it with Elizabeth the next year, and every year after that, as planned--for Spock and Sarek were her family.  And she was deeply moved by the lengths they had gone to to simulate an Earth-type Christmas celebration for her sake; they, at least Spock, seemed to enjoy it as much as she did.
It was Spock's one and only taste of Christmas, for Sarek kept to his word and refused to allow Spock to accompany his mother on her annual Christmas trips back to Earth.  At such times, however, Spock contented himself with getting into Amanda's photo albums when Sarek wasn't watching, looking at the Christmas pictures, remembering their Christmas on Vulcan, and wondering what a real Christmas would be like.

*     *     *     *     *     *

And Spock still wondered.  He was still thinking, remembering that brief sample of Christmas, later that night while engaged in his "work", some scientific research which he had not had time for until now.  Then the words of his mother came back to him: The important thing is to be able to share it all with your loved ones.  There are few things worse than having to spend Christmas alone.  Abruptly, Spock realized that his "work" was nothing more than an excuse; inwardly, he wanted to be with Kirk and McCoy at their Christmas party…but, as usual, he was afraid that, as a Vulcan, he wouldn't fit in.  Christmas always made him feel more isolated and alone than usual, so much so that he normally kept to himself until it was over, afraid to get involved with in the Humans' celebrations, and they had always respected his wishes.
This year, however, Jim had made a point of inviting him--even pleading with him to join them--as had McCoy and Christine.  They wanted to include him in their Christmas celebration, Spock realized; for the first time, he now had an opportunity to experience a real Human Christmas celebration, with his friends…his "loved ones".  Perhaps some research of a different kind was in order.
Spock got up from his desk and went to change into his dress uniform, then gathered up Jim's present and strode resolutely out the door.

The party was in full swing when Spock arrived, complete with a fully decorated artificial tree and presents.  Spock entered cautiously, and Kirk hurried forward eagerly to meet him.  "If…if your invitation to me is still open, I would like to join you."
Kirk beamed at him joyously, taking Spock by the shoulders and drawing him further into the room.  "Of course, it's still open.  Come on in, Spock."  They went back toward the tree, where McCoy and Christine were waiting to welcome him.  "What made you change your mind?"
Spock hesitated.  "I…will tell you another time, Jim.  Tomorrow, perhaps…if you would care to join me in my cabin for chess, around 1800?"
"I'd be honored," Kirk responded agreeably, starting to lean down underneath the tree.  "I think there are some things under here for you--"
He stopped then as Spock produced the present from behind his back and held it out to him, a tiny smile touching his lips.
Kirk looked at him questioningly.  "Spock--?"
"This is for you," Spock told him, rather shyly, by way of explanation.  "Merry Christmas, Jim."
Touched by the unexpected gesture, Kirk accepted the gift, smiling back in response, his eyes meeting Spock's understandingly.  "Merry Christmas, Spock.  Come on--let's open our presents."


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