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Co-Author:  Danielle Stewart

 

It was already full dark, and the fairy lights wrapped around the trees surrounding the city square added their twinkling illumination to the subtle lighting surrounding the still-dark centerpiece of the show – a tree towering 150 feet in the air.

Kirk’s gloved hand gently brushed against Spock’s as they made their way through the crowd and approached the table where a dark haired man wearing a green elf hat was handing out mugs of hot cider.   They’d barely turned around, drinks in hand, when a cheerful voice bellowed against the noise of the crowd, “Hey, Jimmy!  Good to see ya!”  A large man, bundled in heavy winter clothing, cheeks flushed red, grinned widely and slapped Kirk on the back. 

Spock observed Kirk give the other man a politely friendly smile.  Riverside, Iowa, Northam, Terra, was, quite logically, full of Kirk’s old acquaintances, and it seemed every one of them was present on tonight’s occasion and eager to speak with Starfleet’s hero.

“Good, Matt, how are you doing?” Kirk was saying, and Spock interpreted his smile as one he gave to Starfleet acquaintances that he preferred to keep as acquaintances, not as friends.

“Oh, fine, fine.  How about you?  Quit with the spacefaring for a time?” the man demanded, stepping closer.

“Only until the repairs are completed,” Kirk said, polite smile firmly in place.  “Matt Delany, here is my first officer, Mr. Spock.”

Matt looked at Spock with frank curiosity.  “What do you think about the next generation of dilithium-powered engines?” he asked, then without waiting for an answer launched into his opinions on a subject about which he clearly knew nothing.  Five more humans quickly joined in, all with opinions and very few facts, and while they went at it Kirk touched Spock’s elbow and led them towards the solstice tree.

“Another old acquaintance of yours?” Spock observed.

Kirk snorted.  “He was just as bad as Finnegan, back when I was a kid.”

“And now, it seems, he regards you as a friend.”

“My friends don’t call me ‘Jimmy’,” Kirk observed with a quick laugh.

They had just finished the last of their cider, a robot gliding by to pick up their cups, when a woman headed with purpose toward them, her blonde hair barely visible beneath her hood which was flecked with snow.  Her eyes sparkled as she stopped in front of Kirk.  “I heard you were back, Jim.  Will you be staying awhile?” She didn’t bother to hide the hopeful note in her voice, though she did attempt to sneak a speculative look at Spock. 

“We haven’t decided yet,” he said, and Spock thought with longing of the warm interior of the Kirk farmhouse, temporarily their sole abode since Jim’s mother had gone off planet prior to their arrival for a conference and wouldn’t be back for several more days.  Winona Kirk had said she hadn’t wanted to miss Christmas with them, but her tone when they’d spoken with her on subspace radio had been tentative, and she’d been relieved when Jim had reminded her they would still have plenty of time to visit while the repairs to the Enterprise were completed.  Spock was anticipating her return.  He and Kirk had only just agreed to marry, and they wanted her to be the first to know. 

Kirk introduced the woman – Serine – to Spock.  She gave him a brilliant smile; he offered her a grave nod.  She quickly turned her attention to Kirk, looking up at him flirtatiously through her eyelashes.  “Do you celebrate Christmas on board the Enterprise?”

“Our trees are a bit shorter.”  Kirk glanced toward the still-dark tree.  “But yes.  We celebrate many holidays, depending on my crew’s preferences.”

She began chattering about local news with the stated attempt of “catching Jim up”.  A group of humans approached, dressed in anachronistic clothing from centuries past, stopped in front of them and burst into song.  Spock had already experienced the tradition of caroling on board the Enterprise, and on a diplomatic mission during his childhood years in an alien compound under a weather-controlled dome.  Still, he listened attentively as he was aware this particular custom originated on Terra, and here was his chance to hear an authentic version done under an open Terran sky with Terran snow just beginning to fall.  Not for the first time he was grateful for his heated winter clothing.

So this is Christmas and what have you done
Another year over, a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young

A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one without any fears

Their voices harmonized fairly nicely, and Serine stopped her chattering to listen and smile at the singers.  Spock, however, felt the slightest hint of immediately-repressed impatience as she began talking again as soon as the singers finished their song.  Human holiday rituals were fascinating, but aside from the scale of the tree and the outdoors venue, this was not his first experience with Christmas, and he would prefer to be back in the warmth of Kirk’s home. In the warmth of Kirk’s bed. 

Kirk’s sidelong glance and the touch of amusement through their bond showed him he had been mentally ‘overheard’.  He put on his best stoic face and listened politely as Kirk and Serine engaged in ‘small talk’ for another minute.  “Will you ever settle to stay planetside for any length of time?” Serine was asking.  “Or will heroic adventures always call to you?”

“My life is out there,” Jim said simply, then politely disengaged and moved further along the outside of the square.

Once they had put a sufficient distance and number of people between them and Serine Spock asked, “One of your former ‘girlfriends’?”

“We dated.”  Kirk paused for dramatic effect.  “Once.” 

They continued moving around the square.  Very very slowly, as more of Riverside’s residents wanted a word or five with their hero come home.

Spock was grateful when the announcement for the tree lighting was made and people drifted away and fell silent to appreciate the spectacle.  Soft music began playing as tiny pinpoint colored lights of ruby and sapphire and pure white began to glow along the tree’s numerous branches.  More and more lights appeared, and soon the tree blazed in its full glory, every branch hung with ornaments of silver and gold and ruby red.  The light snow continued to settle on the branches, dusting them with flecks of white.

The crowd murmured its appreciation.    Kirk snagged two more hot ciders for them from another table as another group of carolers came by.

“Green groweth the holly, 
So doth the ivy, 
Though winter blasts blow ne’er so high 
Green groweth the holly…”

“Ah yes, a midwinter song,” Spock said, putting on his best pedantic tone.  Kirk grinned, and he continued.  “The tree itself, evergreen when all other plants have lost their foliage, symbolic of the death of the old year and the hope of the new.”

“You know, I never thought to ask,” Kirk said.  “Do celebrating the change of seasons seem strange to you?”

Spock cocked his head.  “These celebrations are common to many cultures.”

“What about Vulcan?  Your weather doesn’t change very much.”

“There are subtle variations in seasons throughout the Vulcan year, marked primarily by changes in cuisine and some symbolic representations in some of the older households.”

“’Symbolic representations’,” Kirk repeated.  “Traces of the past?”

“During the months of what you would call ‘summer’ numerous days pass without even a small breeze to dispel the heat, and people stay indoors during the days behind thick walls.  Then, one day, one might hear the motion of fallen plant twigs and spines rolling along the hard ground, propelled by the slightest motion of the air.  On that day, there are many who go out in the morning hours and hang wind chimes of many designs.  When the breeze stirs the chimes into music, we do not celebrate but quietly acknowledge the change of seasons and the renewal of life on our world.  For when the winds return, then the rains come as well, and for a few days of each year tiny flowers bloom where before there was barren land.  And, more importantly, the aquifers are filled and we know we will have water for the coming year.  Now, of course, we have other means of obtaining water, but the old custom of gratitude for the gift of rain continues.”

Kirk was watching him with that warm intent expression, as if no one else but Spock existed in the entire universe, and though he had been the recipient of many such expressions over the years, even before their bond something within him had always met that directed energy with a powerful response, a magnetic attraction as sure as iron to lodestone. “In all our travels I can only think of a few cultures that don’t have these sorts of traditions to mark the passing of seasons.”

“It does seem to be a near-universal constant for sentient beings as we know them,” Spock agreed.

Kirk fell silent.  All around the square people laughed and drank and strolled.  But Spock could see by the set of his shoulders and the hint of pain around Kirk’s eyes as he stared at the tree that Kirk’s thoughts had turned to some troubling memory.  There seemed no logical reason for it.  The Enterprise had survived the recent space battle with no casualties; the ship itself, while gravely damaged, had limped its way safely back to the Sol system, and the repairs were on track to be completed on schedule.  Their visit with Kirk’s mother had been most pleasant; she had welcomed Spock as if he were another son.  She would be back shortly and then they would take their planned tour of some of Terra’s great cities.  There seemed no obvious cause for Kirk’s mood to darken.  And yet it had.  There was sorrow and grieving, all the emotions of loss, tied together with something specific and bitter. 

This was not a new occurrence.  Spock had observed this mood in Kirk several times before.  He squeezed Kirk’s hand.  Kirk turned to look at him.  “You do not care for this celebration,” Spock said.

A brief look of surprise crossed Kirk’s face, then a rueful smile touched his lips.  “No.  I don’t.”

“I have made a study of this.”  Kirk looked at him questioningly. “You attend the Enterprise parties celebrating this time of your planet’s solar year on its every occurrence.”

“As a Captain should.  And you stay on the bridge.”

“After making a brief appearance.  At your insistence.”

“And McCoy’s.”

“If only to comment on the illogic of the activities.”

“You just love getting his goat.”

They shared a smile, a barely perceptible one on Spock’s part.  He decided to refrain from commenting on the illogic of that saying.  Kirk knew him too well to imagine he would assume Kirk was referring to the acquisition of a hircine.

“However, I have noted that you do not seem to share in their… positive emotions.”

“I’d hoped I was doing a better acting job than that.”  Kirk’s gloved hand found Spock’s equally covered one, and patted the back of Spock’s hand gently.  Staring at the lit tree, with the singing of the carolers close by, he said softly, “I loved Christmas as a child.  All children do, I suppose; those who share these traditions.”  He looked back toward the tree, at the happy crowd milling around it.  He continued, his voice soft.  “Then, one year, one Christmas I was on Tarsus.” 

He fell silent again.  Spock moved his hand to place it palm up against Kirk’s.  Kirk stretched his fingers to lightly tangle with Spock’s.  He kept his attention focused on the tree.  “The next year…  It wasn’t the same.  It never was again.  Mother…  I made an effort for her.  But I could tell she knew my mind was somewhere else.  She didn’t press.  She never has.”

Spock squeezed his hand, and remained silent.  Kirk looked out at the people crowding the square.  “When I came back home…  It didn’t feel like home to me.  After what I saw and experienced, I no longer felt part of this place.  This community.  All the people I’d known all my life – my friends at school, their parents, mother’s friends…  I felt like they were behind one wall and I was behind another.  I was already living another life.  A separate life.  And the symbols of everyday life – I felt I’d left them behind.”  He paused again.  “Celebrating Christmas somehow seemed a betrayal of what I’d seen.  What I held on to was the stars.  I’d always dreamed about the stars.  I wanted to be out there, exploring new worlds, meeting new lifeforms.  Now I needed the stars; need to go somewhere beyond this town, be someone who had enough power to make a difference.”

“There are countless beings who are alive because of you, free from tyranny, free from artificial control.”

“I know,” Kirk said.  “But it’s not enough.”  He gazed at the tree and said, “I remember when I was a boy – how much I loved this celebration.  These traditions seemed simple and easy back then.  The excitement, the decorations, the gifts – both picking the right gift and getting the right gift.”  He gave a quick laugh.  “Or being polite about the wrong gift.  Sam and me – we always got something stupid for each other.  Something we knew the other would hate.  Like picking toy figures of the wrong sports team.  But we tried not to pick anything that would irritate mother.  It was quite a challenge, figuring out just the wrong thing to give.”

Both men fell silent, the sparkling tree, echoing music, distant calls of “Merry Christmas!” and “Good to see you!” fading into the background, echoing faintly off the surrounding snow-covered parkland.

“What about your mother?” Kirk broke the silence.  “Did she have any holiday traditions?”

Spock’s tone when he spoke, was soft, reminiscent yet haunted.  “My mother….” He caught himself uncharacteristically, swallowing against the sudden, encompassing flood in his mind: Images, voices, flickering candlelight, ancient words of a prayer in an ancient language spoken affectionately as the candles flared into life, even smells and tactile sensations…. A boy, his mind and body a blend of two different worlds, different solar systems, different upbringings, different values, emotions and stoicism, different kinds of parents….

“My mother,” he began again, his voice steadying but still with a hint of strain. “My mother came to Vulcan with her Earth traditions and beliefs, her own upbringing. We all reflect those who influenced us as we grew, those who raised us, as you say on Earth. They touched our lives and helped form our earliest memories and beliefs, helped form who we are.”

“Amanda was Jewish, wasn’t she?” Kirk had turned fully toward Spock, looking tenderly into his t’hy’la’s face, his eyes searching Spock’s.

Spock smiled gently. “An ancient belief system – religion, as it is called. Thousands of years ago and now on to many other worlds. A people who are associated with that part of your planet where some of the earliest Terran societies, cultures, religions, and identities first arose and formed, eventually influencing and intermingling with other beliefs, cultures, and civilizations.”

“Christmas comes from that part of the world,” Kirk acknowledged. “It grew from those earlier beliefs, as so often happens with religions and spiritualities.”

Spock glanced aside for a moment, spotting an empty bench a dozen steps away. Its sturdy plank seat was thickly dusted with snow, the ground below gradually filling with small humps and gullies of white powder. He gently nudged Kirk’s hand with his own and they moved to the bench without a word. Settling on the seat, Spock’s lips curved in a small smile as his eyes reflected sudden memories.

“The Jewish people lived in Judea, better known as Israel in later centuries. They believed in a single deity, a God. They had lived in the region for generations and their writings reflect some of their history, as interpreted by those who wrote it down in later times. But it is known that the region was a major trade and military crossroads area at that time, as well as before and since that era.”

Kirk nodded, drawn into Spock’s words.  Spock pulled his hand away from Kirk’s, then pressed two fingers against Kirk’s fingers, and Kirk returned the gesture.  A warmth, a clarity, a welcome widened and expanded around them.  He heard Spock’s voice but he knew he was hearing the words of Amanda Grayson, the Terran mother of the young boy Spock. He saw her face now, looking down at him, her expression at once warm and powerful as she spoke and he listened with fascination and familiarity to a tale Spock had heard from his mother during the relevant season on Terra.

This adult Spock, so logical, so controlled, yet so melded with Kirk, was once again that child as he now remembered aloud.

“The Jewish people lived in that region, farmers, craftsmen, and so on. Their religious world was centered in the Temple where priests would worship for and with the people. They believed in a single deity and the Temple was filled with items sacred to the Jews and their heritage. A single lamp was special. It burned with an olive oil that was specifically made in a traditional way. This lamp was kept lit constantly to represent their constant belief in their God and their equally constant belief that he cared for them. Legend–” – and here Spock smiled, a smile that startled Kirk because it seemed so naturally Human.

Kirk blinked in surprise, then it registered: These were Amanda’s exact words, and that smile was her way of reminding the boy Spock that this was a tale, a story that lived for generations, centuries, millennia, because it was central to a people’s history, lives, and legacy in the world.

The smile remained at one corner of Spock’s mouth as he went on, unaware of Kirk’s reaction.

“Legend says that oil was so special it took eight days to make it and only that oil was used in the sacred lamp.”

Kirk nodded in understanding. How many worlds – planets – systems – had he had heard about, had he met and interacted with their natives? Each and all had their distinctive beliefs, sacred to their lives, their shared history, their traditions, all crucial to their very identities.

He was pulled back to Spock’s voice, now darkening as it continued the legend. “A non-Jewish king known as Antiochus sent his forces into this region. He sought conquest, power, and influence. His beliefs were different from those of the Jews. He and his followers worshipped multiple gods, each responsible for a specific influence in the people’s lives. As the king’s army came, they brought with them these gods, personified in stone or similar statues. As the conquering force, these soldiers enforced Antiochus’ edict that all peoples must follow his beliefs and thus worship his myriad gods as their own.”

He was aware Spock was speaking aloud, and yet it was Amanda’s voice he heard, repeating the story she had heard so many times, the story that had been told to her parents in their youth, and those before and those before, going back and back and back as the Jewish culture encountered and interacted, fought, lost, won, escaped, scattered, hid, forced into lesser status, lived, died – all the things that peoples do to each other….

“The soldiers swept through the region, inflicting the king’s wrath on people who resisted, invading their homes, stealing, destroying, imprisoning, killing. The soldiers ransacked the sacred Temple, taking anything of value for Antiochus, using what they needed, setting up the stone god-statues that the Jews had to worship there instead. No Jewish symbols, practices, or prayers were allowed.”

Spock’s/Amanda’s voice hardened and intensified. “And as happens on many planets, countless worlds and peoples, the time comes to choose. Fight for what you have and believe against those who would turn you otherwise and even destroy you and all your hold dear. Or yield to save your lives and families and what you can salvage and perhaps still practice and believe in secret.”

Spock paused, his gaze now far away. “And as happens, some choose one path, others a different path: Succumb. Resistance. Escape.  The invaders claimed the Jews’ lands and forced them to honor Antiochus’ orders. The legend tells us that Jews who resisted were imprisoned, sold into slavery, killed, their homes and possessions gone as their lives and freedoms also were.”

Spock paused, his thoughts shifting, and Kirk felt the meld become more shallow, more tenuous, like ripples in water spreading apart.

Spock suddenly focused sharply on Kirk, eyes locking. “The scenario that plays out in countless worlds, peoples, societies and civilizations across the galaxies,” he said somberly, his voice touched with pain. “Sentient beings often seem drawn, even unable to resist the magnetic call of power, wealth, glory, total control.  Cultures – or individuals – try to dominate another, and so often there is violence and death.  We Vulcans display weapons on our walls to remind ourselves of the days we tore each other apart for purposes of greed and power.  To remind ourselves that we have not the right to do these things to others.  But it is an ongoing struggle in so many places, so many cultures.  And so it was back then.  Antiochus was that kind of man, a determined and arrogant man, believing himself to be superior to others. He insisted the Jews worship his many gods and yield totally to him.”

“Some did, but some would not,” Kirk said quietly. Whether he knew the story or not – Jim all too well knew people; he knew how conquerors and the conquered interacted, how they felt and dreamed and yearned for their own lives, for their own interpretations of freedom, justice, respect, decency…. And peace.

Spock’s eyes went distant, and Kirk felt the connection between them growing again, like slipping under the surface of water and finding a whole new world beneath.  “The legend –” Spock’s words again were Amanda’s, repeating what she knew by heart from childhood. “The legend says a Jewish man, his sons, and other Jews refused to yield, despite the threats and abuse their people clearly already suffered. A popular version is that this man, Matithius, accidentally killed a king’s soldier who tried to force him to bow to a stone god statue. Though fearful for his own life after such a terrible crime, Matithius rallied those who resisted the king and they fled into the nearby hills.

“The soldiers followed, intent and determined to roust these rebels and completely secure the region at last for Antiochus. The Jewish people fought for their lives and their traditions and beliefs. They knew the hills and terrain of this, their familiar homeland. They fought a guerrilla war. The battles seesawed, the soldiers under orders to subdue and the Jews slipping among the terrain they knew well. After a long time, Antiochus pulled back his soldiers, letting the Jews return and ‘have’ what was left of their lands, homes, and livelihoods.”

Spock paused, sadly thoughtful. Then he observed, “This scenario has played out time and time and time again across all known systems where sentient life exists, under different names and places, despots and desperate peoples. It is not only a ‘human’” – Spock’s slightly sarcastic tone and arched eyebrow reflected the hidden meaning of that word – “tendency or ‘natural’ drive.”

“Go on,” Kirk said.  “What happened when they returned to their homes?” 

Spock began speaking, and Kirk could hear Amanda again, telling the tale.  “The Jews returned to their lands, their homes, their Temple. It was completely desecrated, as is typical of a conquering force that is intent on changing the people’s very system of beliefs and their lives and world. The Jews of course were relieved at their success, eager to recover and repair and return as much as they could to what had once been. They also felt that their single God had indeed been with them through this torment, helping them stay strong in their beliefs as they fought for who they were as a people.

“They went to cleanse and repair the Temple. They removed the statues and other signs of the invaders and their king. But they also wanted to restore what symbolized their spiritual beliefs. That was the single special oil lamp that burned without end to represent their eternal God and their eternal belief in him. But the Temple was ruined inside and out, stripped of any hint of‘respect and sanctity. There also was no sacred olive oil to be found. It had been used or destroyed.”

Spock paused for breath. Kirk was staring at him, riveted, He knew Earth history, had studied, interacted with myriad believers of many traditions, experienced firsthand so many cultures and societies, humanoid and not, and much more. So many of them had similar histories of “inhumanity” to whoever the ‘others’ were and whatever they represented.

And this story – this history – these people – Amanda’s people who lived in her even as she met, loved, married, and left her ancestral planet for a world so far away, joining a people so vastly different from those left behind her, yet all true to their own beliefs and heritage, both steeped in traditions thousands of years old.  People who stayed true to their identities despite all odds, despite attacks and threats and loss and slavery and torture and death –

Tarsus.

Kirk’s blood ran colder than the coldest snowflake. Ice seemed to coat his body and soul. His hackles wracked his spine, sharp as death’s claws as the incomprehensible horrors he had witnessed and experienced began to surface, to rage and fight to come out and appear clearly in his memory….

“It would take eight Terran days to prepare more of the precious sacred oil,” Spock’s voice slipped into Kirk’s thoughts and drew his attention. Images and the visceral sense of what he had experienced on Tarsus struggled and writhed and snapped furiously – and then diminished in Kirk’s mind as Spock enveloped his mind with wordless thoughts of comfort and love. 

Kirk sucked in a deep breath.  “For years it’s been behind me.  For years.  But this season always calls it back in…”  He shook his head.  “No.  It is past.  I know that.”  He placed an arm around Spock’s shoulders.  “Go on,” he urged, and sank back into that distant time and place, seeing Amanda through a child’s eyes.

“Cleansing the Temple began even though the Eternal Lamp, as it was called, remained dark. Then the legend says that a tiny bottle of the special oil finally was found, enough to ignite the lamp for one day. Eight days still were needed for more to be prepared. Should they use it the first day? Or wait until the eighth?  The decision was made to use it the first day as a symbol of their return.  The lamp would then go dark, but not their love and faith and dedication.  The oil in the little bottle was put in the lamp and it was lifted up to hang from the ceiling of the Temple, its traditional and sacred position of respect for God.

“No one touched the lamp while all around the cleansing and repairs continued. A day…. Now the lamp would falter, fade, and the flame disappear. But it did not. Another day…. No pause. Burning strong and true. A third day. A fourth…. Surely someone…? No. Day five and six and seven. The new oil should be here soon, should save the lamp as surely as it must now go out, at the last moment, only a fraction too soon to be saved. The eighth day – no, impossible. Now it will be gone, though their love for their God lasted through the tortures of the king and his rule, stayed with them as they fought as common people against an army of soldiers in the hills above their threatened and ruined homes and livelihoods…. Day Number Eight….”

Kirk was leaning forward, intently focused on the story, the question, anticipating the conclusion.

“The legend says…” Amanda’s smile was a flash of lightning, a feathery touch of love, her voice telling an archetypical story of peoples across so many worlds, so many lands, so many trying to survive, to stay true to their own beliefs and customs and identity as a people… 

“The Eternal Lamp began to flicker as the new oil was brought in. The people waited as the priests lowered it and poured in the fresh new oil, blessings and words of thanks and praise to their God for this eight-day miracle, and even greater, deeper, eternal thanks to their God for bringing these people through the invasion they had suffered to keep their faith as intact as possible.”

Amanda’s face seemed inches away as she spoke of love and tradition and the strength of a people who would not surrender their beliefs.

“The people saw this as proof that their God had indeed been with them and they rejoiced, prayed, thanked each other and their God. And when the Temple was prepared, they rededicated it to their God and in thanks for his – and their – belief in their cause.

“Over the millennia since that time Jewish people commemorate this time of the Miracle. Traditionally, they use a special candelabrum called a Menorah with nine, not eight, branches to each hold a candle. The extra candle is called the Shamos, used as to light the other candles. The commemoration begins at sundown and lasts for a total of eight sundowns, just as the Rededication commemoration acknowledged the eight days of the tiny bottle of oil holding the flame of faith high and steady.”

Kirk felt as if he himself were sitting in that long ago and faraway room, waiting with anticipation as Amanda touched a lit taper to the first candle.  “I will use the Shamos each evening, lighting it, then using it to light a candle for each of the eight days. The candles, like the lamp, are not to be extinguished but are to burn until they fade and go out naturally.” 

Once again that sweetly soft smile touched Spock’s lips. Reality – history - faith - imagination?  Did it matter?  Kirk knew intuitively that there are truths beyond factual reality, and let himself welcome Spock’s memories of this ancient tradition into his own heart.

Spock was speaking again.  His hands were resting lovingly on top of Kirk’s on the bench seat between them. “Those days of celebration are called Hanukah.  Amanda followed many of the traditions, with special prayers, foods, decorations, gifts, songs, and the nightly retelling of the legend.  She would tell me about gatherings of family and friends, and on one occasion we visited Terra during this season and celebrated with her parents.  I heard stories from them as well, that Hanukah means Rededication in acknowledgement of the miracle they believed had happened. Through later centuries of persecution, diaspora, torture, imprisonment, annihilation, conquerors and more – the loss of everything – the legend of Hanukah was told proudly when the people were safe, told in secret when they were persecuted, told in word and song and lore.”

And now Amanda was showing a young Spock a game played with a spinning top with four letters of the Hebrew alphabet on its four sides.  “It’s called a Dreidel,” Amanda was saying.  “It’s just a game, or so my people said.  But the letters – Hay, Gimel, Shin, Nun – represent Hebrew words that translate to ‘A Great Miracle Happened There.’ In times of persecution and flight, Jewish children and adults secretly played this game to recall the story of faith and perseverance and give them hope even in the darkest of times.  To keep the legacy alive no matter where or who or when.  To remember and preserve who they are as a people.”

Amanda faded away as the meld delicately dissipated, though Spock’s hand remained on top of his own.

Kirk said quietly, “We had secret code words on Tarsus.  Ways to communicate where there was food to be had, ways to resist, in even the smallest of ways, Kodos’ people.”  Beneath the noise of the crowd, Kirk’s voice became introspective. “People find these secret ways.  Ways to remember and know who you are, who your ancestors were, and what happened to create the identities of your people.  And here you are, my t’hy’la, part of two ancient traditions.” 

“IDIC,” Spock responded.  “The understanding that tradition must maintain its importance while going forward, taking the best lessons of the past as the basis for what is to come.” 

“I understand now.  After Tarsus, I lost my sense of being part of any traditions at all.   But now… Your mother is a wise person.”  Kirk’s eyes were sparkling as he looked directly at him.  The bond between them expanded and they instinctively responded, leaning into each other for a brief kiss.

There was a sudden murmur in the crowd as a bell sounded sweet and clear in the cold night air.  Kirk looked up and smiled.  “This was always my favorite part.”

They stood together and watched.  Like the lights before it, a faint glow appeared at the top of the tree and then grew brighter and sharper until a beautiful multi-pointed star blazed bright, illuminating the entire tree in a fresh brilliance.

Another group of carolers came around and they stood hand in hand as the singers rang out in clear tones:

Fast away the old year passes, 
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses, 
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather.

“A season of hope and renewal,” Spock said quietly.  “A worthy tradition.”

Kirk gazed back at the star, his mind feeling clear and clean.  Soon, very soon, he and Spock would be back among the stars.  Back home, where together they belonged.

The crowd was beginning to disperse.  A few last well-wishers came by to greet Kirk, be introduced to Spock, and offer invitations for meals and events.  Kirk found himself responding with genuine warmth to the people he had known so many years ago, and, with a mental question to Spock, accepted some of the joint invitations.

At last they strolled off.  Spock touched two fingers to Kirk’s, and then he summoned their vehicle.

Upon their arrival back at Kirk’s ancestral home, Spock stepped inside, grateful that Jim had programmed the house to be warm in readiness for their return.  The main message unit was blinking, and Kirk ordered it to play their messages.

“Hey, Jim! Spock!”  McCoy’s cheerful, slightly tipsy voice rang out.  He was holding a tall glass of something red with green threads running through it, doubtless made of alcohol.  He was sitting beneath a large umbrella on a white sand beach.  “Merry Christmas!  Joanna says hi!”  Joanna put her face next to his.  “I can do that myself, Dad.”  She grinned.  “Hi!  Come on down for a visit.  We’re in the Bahamas.  Nice and warm here.  I’ll be here for another week.  Hope to see you!  Love!”

That message was followed by one from Uhura, who was visiting family in Kenya, from Sulu, sent from a fancy San Francisco restaurant, and another from Scotty inviting them to Hogmany.  There were a good two dozen more from various friends, all with the same message:  Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!

 

“I think this calls for a toast,” Kirk said as he clicked off on the last of the messages.  “And celebration.”  He caught Spock up in a huge embrace and whispered a suggestion in his ear, catching the lobe between his teeth as he let go.

“An eminently logical suggestion,” Spock said, eyes bright and interested.

“But first…” Kirk took a minute to rummage in a cabinet and remove a bottle.  He uncorked the champagne, retrieved a champagne glass from a shelf, then put an order into the foodserver.  A minute later, out popped a ceramic mug decorated with a festive lighted tree and full of steaming hot chocolate, complete with tiny marshmallows, popped out.  He handed it to Spock and lifted his glass.  “To another new year.” 

“To another new year,” Spock echoed.  They finished their drinks, then Kirk swept Spock up in his arms and gave him a deep exploring kiss.  Spock responded in kind, and marveled, not for the first time, that all of this man’s attention – all of this man’s positive emotions – were focused so forcefully on him.  As indeed his energies were focused on Jim in return.  It crackled around him and between them, that aura of mental and physical energy, connected, indivisible, invisible.  Never and always touching and touched. 

Their hands entwined. They went upstairs.

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