Spock glanced up from his computer screen to find his daughter, T’Lira, waiting patiently by his side. He looked at her, the love he always felt for this small sprite welling up inside him. At the age of sixteen months, Lira was growing quickly, both physically and mentally. Indeed, some days, Spock almost imagined he could see her growing, even though he knew this was a fanciful conceit. However, he made a mental note to talk with the Quartermaster about new clothing for her. She was quickly outgrowing her small blue Science uniform, and Spock knew that would be the first thing she would want replaced.
“Yes, daughter?” he asked, looking into the deep blue eyes so much like Jim’s. His bond mate was on a conference call to Command, and despite the fact that T’Lira loved nothing more than ‘conducting ship’s business,’ as she referred to the times she occupied Jim’s lap during calls, this particular call was with several admirals, not all of whom approved of toddlers in high-level meetings. So Spock was doing solo parenting duties this evening.
“May I ask you a question?” T’Lira stood straight, her tiny hands clasped behind her back. Once again, Spock was struck by her resemblance to both him and Jim. She had Jim’s coloring and to some extent his features, but her mannerisms—and her ears—were definitely her heritage from her sa-mekh.
“You may,” Spock replied. He signed off his computer and rose to his feet, holding out his arms. “However, perhaps we would be more comfortable on the sofa.”
She thought it over for a moment, and then Jim’s smile flashed. “Quite logical.” She held out her arms in turn, and Spock picked her up and carried her into the living area of the suite of rooms Mr. Scott, with his usual efficiency and lack of concern for regulations, had created for them by combining Jim and Spock’s quarters and ‘borrowing’ a small unused adjoining conference room. Thanks to his efforts, they had appropriate surroundings in which to raise their daughter.
“So,” Spock said, settling down on the couch with T’Lira in his arms, “you have a question for me.” Spock braced himself’ T’Lira’s thirst for knowledge was nearly insatiable, and she was extraordinarily precocious, even for a sort-of Vulcan, as Jim teasingly referred to her. It was impossible to know what her next area of inquiry might be. Spock sincerely hoped it did not involve humanoid reproduction. His daughter’s next words did nothing to reassure him, since it was a subject he knew little about.
“It is in the area of human theology, sa-mekh,” Lira explained precisely. She had recently learned that not only was there a galaxy full of knowledge, but that different types of knowledge had different designations. She looked both anxious and apologetic. “I realize that is not your area of expertise.”
Spock fought to hide the smile his child and his mate so often coaxed from him. “I will endeavor to be helpful nonetheless,” he assured her gravely.
“Good. Then why do humans worship turkeys?”
“Worship turkeys?” Spock thought frantically, but despite the myriad of human religions, he could not recall a single one that worshipped Meleagris gallopavo.
“Lira, I am not certain I understand your question. To the best of my knowledge, humans do not worship turkeys.”
She shook her head. “They do, sa-mekh,” she replied earnestly. “The upcoming holiday is their worship-time.”
“Ah.” Spock’s brow cleared. “I believe you misunderstood the role of the turkey in the Terran holiday of Thanksgiving, daughter,” he explained gently. “Traditionally, they do not worship that bird; they eat it.”
“Oh.” T’Lira giggled as she absorbed that information. “You are correct, sa-mekh—that is very different. Why do they eat a turkey? Is it to appease one of their gods?”
“No,” Spock replied carefully. He certainly didn’t feel qualified to explain Terran Christian theology to his child. Even though both his mother and his bond mate had attempted to explain various elements of the belief, Spock still didn’t quite comprehend all the subtleties.
“Thanksgiving is a traditional harvest festival,” he explained. “Many cultures, both human and otherwise, have such events. It is a time to give thanks for what humans call blessings—advantages in their everyday lives that they believe are bestowed by a deity or deities. In many cultures where food supplies were sometimes scarce, the greatest blessing was an abundance of food. Therefore, many humans, especially those of Western European descent, such as your papa, celebrate Thanksgiving with a large meal that signifies a plentitude of food.”
The red-gold, slanted brows drew together in a puzzled frown. “So humans give thanks for—replicators?”
“She what?” Jim was choking with laughter as Spock explained his earlier conversation with T’Lira.
“She is under the impression that Thanksgiving is a holiday honoring food replicators,” Spock explained. “However, Lira pointed out, quite logically, that it would be more appropriate to give thanks to Mr. Scott, since he actually keeps the replicators operational.”
“Oh, my God. Our daughter’s worshipping Scotty?” Jim buried his face in their pillow and howled, not wanting to wake Lira, who slept in the next room.
Spock sighed. “I fear I was not completely successful in imparting accurate theological information to our child.”
“No, I guess not.” Jim pulled his head out of the pillow and wiped the tears of mirth off his face. “Between the ‘holy’ Mr. Scott and the Vulcan pantheon of gods, I’m afraid our baby isn’t going to grow up a good Baptist,” he chuckled. He settled down in his mate’s arms, kissing a pointed ear. “It’s all right, ashaya,” he murmured, still chuckling. “I will try to explain Thanksgiving to Lira so she doesn’t grow up to be a little heathen.”
“Thank you, t’hy’la,” Spock replied. “I am not concerned about the ultimate state of her immortal soul, but I do not wish her to be confused about Terran holidays.”
“Yes, she’s got it all wrong.” Jim grinned as he held his mate close. “She’s supposed to worship the pumpkin pie.”
“What do you mean, you can’t find him?” Jim snapped into the comm. link, fighting down a surge of panic. The landing party that was exploring Xeres Four had hastily beamed back on-board after an encounter with a pack of some kind of large, fur-bearing carnivores. All personnel were accounted for—except for Spock, who had led the party and had somehow been separated from them when the creatures attacked.
“We hae nae been able to locate Mr. Spock,” Scotty repeated patiently. “There be some kind of mineral deposits in the rocks o’the planet, Captain—they be creating blind spots for our sensors. I am attemptin’ ta re-calibrate the sensors an’ compensate for it, but at this point, we canna find his life signs.”
Jim took a deep breath, drawing on his command abilities, reminding himself that panic would get them nowhere. “Keep trying, Mr. Scott, and let me know. Kirk out.” He snapped off the link and turned to Uhura. “Anything?”
She shook her head, the dark eyes sympathetic as well as worried. She and Spock had remained friends long after they were no longer involved romantically, and she knew exactly what Spock meant to Jim. “No signal, sir,” she replied softly. “Those mineral deposits are interfering with communication signals as well. I’m working with Scotty on that.”
“Keep me apprised,” Jim said, even as he knew how dumb that was. She always kept him informed, and she certainly would now. He rose to his feet. “Sulu, you have the con. I’ll be in my quarters.” Dealing with my frantic child, he thought.
T’Lira huddled in Jim’s arms, still crying softly as he stroked the shiny, pale gold hair. “Shhh,” he murmured. “It’s all right, sweetheart. We’ll find sa-mekh, I promise.” He held her closer, rocking in the chair Scotty had given them before Lira was born.
“But Papa,” she whispered. “It might be cold on the planet, and maybe—maybe the bad animals are bothering sa-mekh.” She raised her head from his shoulder. “Can’t we go and look for him?” she pleaded.
“It’s not safe, sweetheart,” Jim replied gently. “Sa-mekh would be very angry if I put us in danger to find him; you know that’s true.”
“But I don’t want him to be cold and hurt.”
“No.” Jim kissed a tearstained cheek, fighting his own fears. “I don’t want that either, sweetheart.”
“Papa. Papa, wake up, please.”
Jim jerked awake as he heard Lira call his name. She’d cried herself to sleep, and he’d put her to bed, settling down at his desk to coordinate the search and nag Scotty every fifteen minutes about the sensors and communications issues. I must have dozed off. He rose from his desk and hurried into Lira’s room, where she was sitting up in bed.
“What is it, baby?” He sat down and pulled her into his arms.
“I can hear sa-mekh, Papa. We need to get him.”
Jim looked at her. “Hear him?”
“In my head,” she nodded. “He needs to come home now; it’s cold, and his leg hurts, Papa.”
“Where, sweetheart? Can you tell me where he is?”
“No, but I can show you.” Lira was definite.
Jim scooped her up and ran for the main conference room.
“Okay, baby.” Jim sat with Lira on his lap, the planet’s topographical map spread out before them on the giant wall screen. “Think hard, sweetie. What is sa-mekh telling you? Where is he?”
Barefoot and still in her nightgown, Lira frowned, the tiny face crewed up in a concentrated scowl. “He’s—there’s a funny rock; it looks like a vulture. He’s sitting next to it…” The small finger pointed at a spot on the map. “There, Papa. He’s there.”
Jim’s fingers danced over the computer controls, calculating the coordinates. He hit his link. “Kirk to Transporter Room. Scotty, lock on and beam up any life form in the vicinity of the following coordinates….”
“He’ll be fine, Jim.” McCoy stripped off his sterile gloves. “I set the broken leg, and I’m treating him for mild hypothermia, but the hobgoblin will be up and around in a day or so. It’s a damned good thing we found him when we did, though.”
“Yeah,” Jim agreed grimly. When Scotty had energized, he’d not only caught Spock in the beam but two of the carnivores that had been stalking him. Fortunately, Scotty was still the fastest beamer in the West, and when Spock managed to stagger off the platform, Scott had quickly sent the ‘wee beasties’ back to the surface. Spock was safe.
Jim looked around the Main Mess, the scene of a cheerful Thanksgiving meal. “Do you know where Lira is?” he asked Bones, who was sitting next to him.
McCoy looked over at the traditional children’s table, where his wife T’Rina had been sitting with Lira and Selik, Bones and Rina’s son. Selik was still cheerfully playing in a mound of mashed potatoes, but Lira was nowhere to be seen. Bones caught his wife’s eye and motioned towards Lira’s empty seat. She nodded back and pointed towards the door.
Jim rose to his feet. “I can guess where she is,” he grinned and hurried away.
Jim stood in the door of Spock’s Sickbay room. As he’d suspected, T’Lira was perched on the edge of Spock’s bunk. Much to Jim’s surprise, she had a bowl and spoon in her hand.
“These are cranberries,” she informed her sa-mekh solemnly. “They are plant-based, so you may eat them. Grumpy Bones says they are high in vitamin C, which will aid in healing your contusions, and they are a traditionally Thanksgiving food, so you may give thanks for them.” She spooned up some berries and proceeded to feed them to Spock, whose eyes smiled over Lira’s head as Jim smiled back and slipped out of the room to leave his mate and their child together.
Jim went back to the feast. He knew what he was thankful for.