San Francisco was sometimes too cold for him. And as illogical as it was, he wasn’t thinking about the temperature. He welcomed the clean air of Earth after spending a year in space, breathing the recycled air of the Enterprise. But he was not comfortable with the timing. Of course, that was extremely selfish of him, not to mention very unbecoming of a Vulcan BUT he hated terran Holidays. And oddly enough, not because they were illogical, but because he had loved them once.
No one knew about it but he had enjoyed Christmas immensely, even on Vulcan. And all because his mother had insisted that they celebrate the festival. Lebkuchen cookies, panettone, even cinnamon-infused apple cider… Christmas had been about his favorite terran dishes and more. It had been about his heritage and roots on Earth. It had been about anecdotes from her childhood and her time at the academy. It had also been about the grandparents and aunts and uncles he had never met.
During his cadet years, Amanda had asked him many times to come with her to his grandmother’s house. But he had always been too busy. Now she was gone. And along with her, the opportunity to meet his grandmother.
“...Bye, I’ll see you after New Year’s,” Nyota’s cheerful voice spoke from behind him. She was bidding farewell to the captain. Mr. Scott, Mr. Sulu, and Mr. Chekhov had already left. Dr. McCoy was waiting for the captain.
Finally, it was his turn.
“Captain, I wish you a pleasant holiday season,” he said mechanically. He knew he could have made his greeting a little warmer. But he had never been good at pretending. His voice and eyes could never soften unless he meant it.
“You too, Spock,” the Jim said warmly. “You said you had plans on… but you know, if you want, just drop in for Christmas.”
“I thank you for the offer captain, but I am otherwise engaged for the entire duration of the shore leave.” That was not entirely true but it was technically the truth so it was okay. At least, that is what he told himself.
The captain nodded and made his way out of the ship yard. Dr. McCoy didn’t say anything but he nodded his farewell. Spock nodded in response. He wasn’t really comfortable with the doctor either. He was above petty insults like ‘pointy-eared bastard’ and ‘green-blooded hobgoblin’ but he knew humans weren’t. Usually, strong words came with strong emotions. He knew Dr. McCoy merely tolerated him. And that was okay. He didn’t need more than that. If anything, it made life easier for him. He had to keep up no appearances.
And so, began the lonely trip to the Starfleet Officers’ Guest House. From the window of the hovercab, he saw the decorated shop windows, families buying gifts and foodstuffs for the festivities, carolers singing beautifully in harmony, and even a man dressed up as the mythical character called St. Nicholas or Santa Claus as terrans preferred to address him.
At long last, the cab stopped outside the guest house.
“Have a good one, sir,” the driver said. “And Merry Christmas.”
Spock did not respond. But the other man smiled kindly and drove away.
“Merry Christmas,” Spock repeated under his breath. The words felt strange on his tongue. It had been a while since he had said them. A whole year. He remembered his mother’s last visit to him. She had dragged him to a Christmas concert at the Franciscan Church near James Street. He would never admit it to anyone else but he had enjoyed the evening. And after that, they had gone out for dinner. Some of the other instructors at the academy had teased him about it. Mama’s boy. That’s what they had called him. He knew it was meant to be insulting but he had felt no insult. If enjoying his mother’s company made him “mama’s boy” then that was fine with him. Besides, Nyota had gone to visit her family. It had been logical to spend time with his mother, especially since she had come only to see him all the way from Vulcan.
A year ago, the guest house had felt welcoming.
Today, it felt lonely and sterile.
But it was clean and serviceable. That was all that mattered. As he unpacked his belongings, he could hear the chatter in the common room. The other guests were laughing about something. Maybe a humorous anecdote of some sort. Spock had no desire to join them. He was happy to be by himself. Tomorrow was Christmas eve. He was going to stay in his room and read an anthology of the best terran poetry. He was particularly looking forward to Beowulf, a long epic poem, considered to be a terran classic and one of the oldest surviving works in traditional standard.
The next morning came with a slight chill in the air. Spock tightened the cord on his thick, tartan dressing gown. Considering that the guest house was centrally heated, he was certain that the temperature outside would be colder still. Mercifully, he had no reason to go out.
He replicated a cup of coffee and a cup of vegan oatmeal for breakfast. He had started reading Beowulf yesterday and despite the fantastic and wholly irrational premise of the poem, he was intrigued. Besides, the poetry itself flowed like a stream. He had never read a work with such complex symbolism. The penmanship was par excellence.
“It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark.”
Human beings were fascinating. They believed that an act antithetical to peace would lead them to that end before their demise. Revenge-- an ugly, baser emotion. Rationalized, justified, even glorified.
It repulsed him. And yet, he had felt it towards Nero. He had been consumed with it while piloting the Jellyfish into the belly of the Narada.
So far he had read poems by Lord Tennyson, Thomas Campbell, Rabindranath Tagore, Emily Dickinson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. He had obviously underestimated humans and their ability to think. He should have known better, considering he had learnt so much about life from his own human mother.
Hungrily, he read on as the color of the light outside the window dimmed to a deep red before being swallowed into the blackness.
He was surprised to note that he had read continuously for over eight hours. And there were still over 2,500 poems to read in this particular collection. But it was getting late. He wanted to take some time to meditate and think about everything he had read.
The next morning, he woke up to the sound of a chorus.
“…...Silent night, Holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;”
He remembered this song. He had heard it at the church last year. In an odd way, it made him feel homesick.
But before he could dwell upon it for too long, someone knocked at the door. He opened it. A young brown-haired man was standing outside.
“Lt. Alex Wilkes,” he introduced himself. “Engineering division. USS Ptolemy.”
“What can I do for you?” Spock asked without preamble.
“Erm… Merry Christmas, Commander,” Wilkes said. “This is embarrassing but please don’t be offended. I and my friends… er….werfinofurs…. Uh oh!.. I mean, we are your fans… you know.. For what you did during the whole Narada thing.”
Spock quirked up his eyebrow.
“That does not tell me what you require from me,” he said. It came out a little harsher than he had intended but he had absolutely no desire to discuss the Narada incident with anyone, especially not young officers he didn’t know.
“We… there are presents under the tree,” the young man answered. “We were going to open them. You probably want to open yours as well. We thought we’d ask you if you wanted to come down and eat breakfast with us while we open presents.”
“I do not celebrate your festival, Mr. Wilkes,” Spock answered, not unkindly. “However, thank you for your courtesy.”
And without waiting for a response, he shut the door, leaving poor Wilkes feeling like a total moron.
Over the next two hours, Spock ate his usual breakfast, completed some paperwork, and got dressed. And then, there was another knock on the door.
He hoped it wasn’t Wilkes.
It wasn’t. In fact, there was no one outside-- except for a little box wrapped in shiny golden and red packaging. A little card on top told him that the box was indeed meant for him.
He looked around before picking up it up and taking it inside. Of course, he had no idea who had sent it. Without giving it much thought, he opened it.
Inside was a note and a real, antique book made out of actual paper. The title of the book was “Black Beauty” by an author called Anna Sewell. This made him wonder. Who was the sender? How did they know he was interested in terran literature. How did they know to send it to this address. And why had they sent him a paper book when this work was probably available electronically.
Maybe the accompanying note would have some answers.
I’d normally start my note with ‘dear’ Spock but since you claim to be an unemotional Vulcan (though we all know better), I didn’t want to offend you by making you feel wanted. That being said, I want you to know you ARE dear to me and to everyone on the ship. I know I’m taking the direct approach but that’s logical, right. I mean, beating around the bush won’t help while talking to you. Just saying what needs to be said (your line, not mine… but it’s nice. I’ll use it against old Marcus sometime).
So here it is.
Merry Christmas, buddy. I’m glad we are serving together. I am grateful to you for saving my hide all the time. And I am still in shock that you agreed to be my first officer. This little gift is just my way of letting you know how much all of this means to me… how much you mean to me. Besides, you know more about horses than you let on. I mean, you know more than just their anatomy and physiology. Remember, you marooned me on Delta Vega so I could be broken in before riding the Kentucky Derby (Don’t kill Bones… and don’t tell him I told you. Or you’ll become an accessory to murder if not a murderer yourself!)
I hope you enjoy the book and I’d really like it if you came over to my place for Christmas dinner. Bones is away seeing his daughter. And I can cook vegan. I want to be your friend, Spock.I want to know you better. Plus, I don’t want to be alone on Christmas. And I have a sneaking suspicion that you don’t either. I know you don’t have plans. And that’s cool. Cause now you do. So let’s just spend Christmas together. Consider it a work meeting over dinner if you can’t think of it as a fun holiday celebration.
I’ll pick you up at 7.
Spock was stunned and overwhelmed. He did not know how to process this sudden offer of friendship. He picked up his PADD and started typing a note to politely decline. Vulcans did not have friendships. He was completely self sufficient and even if the captain could not bring himself to be alone on Christmas, he had no need for company. He was tired of humans applying their own standards to him. He wasn’t human. He didn’t have their weaknesses.
But in mid-sentence, his fingers paused above the keypad as something he had read yesterday came back to him.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
And before he could change his mind, he simply typed, “I accept your invitation, Captain.”
Exactly, fifty years later, after a lifetime of memories, love, and blessings, he laid the body of his T’hy’la to rest in the cemetery behind the Franciscan Church near James Street. And as he said his farewell to Jim, a group of carolers passed by, singing the second verse of Silent Night in perfect harmony.