DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Saidicam29 and is copyright (c) 2001 by Saidicam29. Rated G. Authors: T'Lea (firstname.lastname@example.org), Saidicam (email@example.com), and Selek (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A Family Christmas Surprise
T'Lea, Saidicam29 and Selek
Sarek was sitting at his desk in the Vulcan Science Academy preparing his next lesson. He taught advanced computer programming when he wasn't negotiating treaties for his government. He was deeply immersed in the complex lines of computer code when his comm unit sounded. Glancing sharply at the intrusion, he noticed the call was from the Secretary of Interplanetary Affairs. Knowing he had to take the call, he straightened up from his reading and flicked the switch. "Sarek here," he said.
The screen resolved into a stern-looking Vulcan woman of middle age. Her hair was piled on top of her head and her robe sigils indicated she was also a member of the Vulcan High Council. "Greetings, Ambassador Sarek. I am T'Mia, Undersecretary of Interplanetary Affairs. I regret that we have not had the opportunity to meet before."
Sarek nodded his reply and noted the use of his title. "Greetings, Undersecretary. How may I be of service?"
"As you know, you are to be posted at the Terran Embassy again for an indefinite period. It appears that the Federation Council is meeting earlier than expected. You are to report as Senior Ambassador as of the 13th of Tasmeen instead of the 5th of Z'at as previously stated. The staff there are expecting you and your family at that time and a diplomatic shuttle stands ready to leave as soon as you are prepared."
Sarek's facial muscles never moved when he heard the message. "I understand, Undersecretary T'Mia. It will take me a few days before I am ready to leave. Shall I notify you when I am ready to depart."
"That will not be necessary as you will have to come to the offices to be briefed on Terran matters. You may inform me then." She raised her hand in the familiar ta'al and said, "Live long and prosper, Ambassador Sarek."
Sarek returned the salute, saying, "Peace and long life, Undersecretary." He then closed the communication.
It was already the 7th of Tasmeen and the early departure date didn't give him much time to prepare. He would have to pull Spock from school early, not that he thought Spock would mind. And as for Amanda, she also taught classes at the Vulcan Science Academy. She would have to find another lecturer to teach her classes until the end of the term. But, they had done this before and knew the drill. It would be rushed, but not impossible.
Sarek finished his lesson plan, then contacted Stavel, the Dean of Computer Science and informed him that he had to leave earlier than planned. Stavel knew and accepted that Sarek had other commitments and always had another lecturer that could fill in at a moment's notice. "I will have T'Lua teach your classes starting tomorrow, Sarek. I thank you for the time you have spent with us."
"Shall I send you the lesson plan, or will T'Lua be using my office?" Sarek asked.
"Transmit it to me and I will ensure she receives it," Stavel assured. With that, he closed the connection.
Sarek arrived home at his usual time. His beloved wife of nine years was preparing dinner. The aroma wafted to his nose and he then realized how hungry he was. It was often the case that he became so involved in programming code that he neglected to eat at midmeal, and today was no different.
Amanda came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a towel. She crossed the room, holding up paired fingers. "How was your day, Sarek? You look tired."
Sarek touched his fingers to hers, gazing into her blue eyes. "I am not fatigued, my wife, only hungry. Where is Spock?" he asked, searching the room for his son.
"I let him use your study to do his homework. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all, Amanda. Have I time to change before dinner?"
"Don't take too long. It's almost ready."
Sarek changed in the bedroom then went into his study to gather his son for dinner. Spock was seated at his large desk, padds almost covering the top of it. His brow was furrowed in concentration and his legs were swinging back and forth absent-mindedly. He was so focused that he never looked up when Sarek entered. Sarek wondered if Spock had been so intent on his work that he also had failed to eat midmeal, but knew Amanda would never allow that to happen.
"Spock," Sarek said. When he didn't receive a response, he repeated it a little louder. "Spock!"
Spock's head snapped up at the sound, his eyes wide.
"It is time for dinner, son. Please wash your hands and come to the table."
"Yes, Father," was all he said as he slid off the chair and scooted out the door ahead of Sarek.
Once they were all seated around the table and the food dished out, Sarek told his family they were moving earlier than expected.
Amanda's eyes widened at the news. "That's impossible!" she exclaimed. "I'm right in the middle of teaching Saarvan's Theory of Linguistics. I can't leave now. This is the crux of the entire course. If they don't get this part, they'll never understand the other theories that build on his."
"Amanda, surely someone else can teach this concept. Who taught it before you did?" Sarek asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"No one did. I'm the first one to teach it. No one else knows it as well as I do." She sat and thought for a moment. "The only person I can think of is T'Lira since her doctoral dissertation is based on Saarvan's work. But it would be such an imposition."
"Amanda, you have mentored her all this time. I do not think that she would take offense if you asked her to give a few of your lectures. She would no doubt welcome the experience."
"I suppose you're right. It would be good for her to get in a few practice lectures before she has to defend her dissertation before the entire faculty of the VSA. But she'd have to finish my grading for me."
"T'Lira has graded papers before, Amanda. You forget that she teaches her own classes from time to time. And you have reviewed enough of her own work for her to know what you find important."
"That's true. I just don't want to burden her. I know how much I hated doing all my professor's work for him when I was a graduate student. And then he took all the credit for it."
"Yes, but this is different. You have very rarely asked anyone to fill in for you. And, believe me, you have never taken advantage of having T'Lira as your assistant."
"Well, as long as you're sure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I'll call her after dinner."
"Good. I do not wish to leave you behind," Sarek told her, the corner of his mouth twitching upward.
"Guess what, Spock?" Amanda said, turning her attention to her son.
"You heard me. Guess."
"I have no idea," Spock told her. Vulcans did not guess. They might hypothesize. Estimate. Theorize. But guess? Puzzled, he looked at Sarek for help. Sarek raised an eyebrow at him.
"You have no idea? Well I guess that means you aren't interested in hearing all about Christmas," she said with a mischievous grin, getting up from the table with her empty plate and heading for the kitchen.
"Christmas?" Spock asked.
"Yes, Christmas," Sarek said simply. "If I am not mistaken, our arrival date on Terra will put us in the midst of the holiday season."
Two nights later Amanda was packing from the checklist that she always used for Sarek's impromptu diplomatic missions. T'Lira had agreed to teach her advanced linguistics class for the remainder of the term, and she had already commed her folks to let them know that they would arrive early. Her mother had walked away from the viewscreen and left her father on the communication link with Amanda, insisting that if she started right this minute, she might have the house ready by the time they got there.
As she selected the clothes she wanted to take for the trip, Amanda lightly hummed songs from the Nutcracker Suite. Perhaps she would be able to get tickets to a performance. Spock had heard the music, but had never been to a ballet before. In fact, he hadn't been to Earth at all since he was quite little. She didn't think that he remembered much. This would be a chance for him to discover some Terran traditions. She hadn't intended for so much time to pass between visits to Earth, but with Sarek's schedule and her teaching load, and with Spock's schooling, it had ended up being five years. Her parents had visited them on Vulcan several times, but it had been over two years since their last trip to her new homeworld.
As she began whistling "Winter Wonderland", Sarek entered their bedroom. Looking up, she smiled at him and continued with her song.
"Aduna, there is a call for you from T'Lira."
"Oh. She probably just wants to check on a few things before I leave. You know what my notes are like." Amanda said, breezing past him to the communications unit in their bedroom. It was not T'Lira on the viewscreen, however, but her bondmate, Sesek.
"Sesek, it's good to see you," Amanda told him.
"T'sai Amanda. I regret to inform you that T'Lira will be unable to take over your linguistics class. She wanted you to know as soon as possible."
"What is it? What's wrong?" Amanda asked him anxiously.
"T'Lira has somehow managed to contract Rigellian flu," Sesek told her.
"Oh, my! Do you need me to come over?" she asked him. Rigellian flu was not to be taken lightly.
"No, T'sai. I was able to take leave. Her fever is quite high, but she is resting comfortably right now. It will be several weeks before she recovers completely."
"Well, let me know if you need anything. Call me any time. And tell T'Lira not to worry. I'll think of something."
"I will inform her, T'sai. Live long and prosper," he said, closing the link.
Amanda stared at the screen as the image of the ta'al disappeared. She turned around to find Sarek looking at her curiously. "Well, that's that," Amanda told him.
"Yes. indeed. And I was so looking forward to showing Spock all about Christmas."
"My wife, you can still show him these customs. What about having Sendet teach your class? He is the head of the Linguistics program, after all."
"Hmph," Amanda snorted in response. "I think they were still speaking Old High Vulcan the last time he taught any linguistics."
"Logic dictates that there must be another instructor capable of teaching this course," Sarek told her patiently.
"Logic? Logic has nothing to do with it. There isn't anyone else that I can think of. Kaiidth. What is, is. I'm stuck here for another two weeks. You have to be on Earth by the 13th. Spock's tutor at the Embassy already has his lesson plan ready to start on the 13th and I don't want him to fall behind. Why don't you and Spock go ahead and I'll catch up with you when I finish my course. Besides, my parents are expecting you to visit them. It's been a long time since they've seen Spock and I don't want them to wait any longer. I'm sure the two of you can manage until then without me." Amanda smiled cheerfully, but Sarek sensed her disappointment over their bond.
"Yes, we can manage without you," he told her as he wrapped his arms around her slender waist. "But we would prefer not to."
"Well, you're going to have to," she responded nuzzling her face into his chest. Sarek was again hit with a wave of emotion before Amanda shielded it from him.
"Do not fret, Amanda. I will show Spock all of the Christmas traditions that you showed me when we were first bonded," Sarek whispered, pulling her tighter against him, his warmth washing over her across their bond.
She looked up at her husband and smiled again. "Does that mean you're going to show him mistletoe?" she asked, her sapphire eyes dancing with amusement as she slipped her arms around his neck.
* * *
Sarek and Spock arrived in San Francisco on the 13th day of Tasmeen, which translated into the Terran calendar as the 19th of December. Sarek settled the two of them in the residence at the Embassy and was further briefed by his staff. All the humans were showing signs of excitement about the upcoming celebration of Christmas. Sarek had witnessed and even participated somewhat in this celebration before he and Amanda left for Vulcan, and was tolerant of the humans' emotions.
That night after he had commed Amanda to tell her they had arrived safely, he lay in bed thinking of the first Christmas he shared with Amanda. It had been at this very residence, but was before Spock was born. Sarek had come home after a long day in Council meetings and he was tired and hungry. As he came into the main room, he noticed a small coniferous tree covered in lights and baubles along one wall. Raising an eyebrow at the sight, he noticed Amanda standing beside it, a drink in her hand. She raised her glass to him and said, "Merry Christmas, Sarek. Want some wine?"
He approached the tree and fingered the baubles gently. "What is this, Amanda?"
Pouring him a glass of wine, she said simply, "It's a Christmas tree."
"What does it symbolize?" he asked, taking the wine from her hand.
"Because conifers are always green, it symbolizes the promise of spring. You put your presents underneath it. That's part of the tradition; at least my tradition."
Sarek looked at her, then the tree. Her eyes shone with love and he could tell through the bond that she wanted to share her culture with him in the worst way. "Ah. I see," was all he said. "It is a very nice tree. Did you decorate it yourself?"
"Yes, but next year, we can do it together as a family. And when we have children, we can all decorate the tree. It will be so much fun!" Her excitement filled the whole room and Sarek allowed it to wash over him.
He looked around the room to see if any other decorations were there, but saw none. Satisfied, he sat in his favorite chair and sipped his wine.
Behind him, he heard his wife's voice. "Sarek, can you come here, please?"
He turned in his chair and saw Amanda standing at the door. Wearily he rose from the chair and went to her. "Yes, beloved?"
She reached up and kissed him on the lips. Sarek was startled at her actions, but did not object. Then he saw his wife point to someplace above his head. Slowly, he looked up and saw a small green sprig hanging from the doorframe. "What is that?" he asked, looking back down at his wife.
"Mistletoe, my husband. When you stand underneath it, it's an invitation to be kissed. In fact, it's your duty to kiss someone under the mistletoe."
"Even someone I am not bonded to?" Sarek asked, astonished.
"Well, maybe that wouldn't be a good idea. But if I stand underneath it, you'd better kiss me!" With a twinkle in her eye, she kissed him again.
As illogical as it was, tonight the bed somehow seemed too big without her warm presence beside him. As he fell asleep, he resolved to tell Spock about Christmas trees, but not about mistletoe.
* * *
One day, while working in his office, Sarek was interrupted by Sasev, his aide. "You have a call from a Mr. Alfred Grayson. Do you wish to take it?"
"Yes, put it through," Sarek said.
When the call came through, he looked at his father-in-law. He was an older man, with a full head of grey hair. "Professor Grayson, it is pleasing to see you," Sarek said.
"Professor? Hell, son, I'm retired. Please call me Al. We're not that formal around here. You've been around those Federation bigwigs too much." The grey-haired man's eyes softened for a moment. "Sarek, how are you, son? It's good to have you back. It's been too long. I heard from Amanda that you have Spock with you there, as well. You must come to our place for dinner some night. In fact, what are you doing tonight?"
Sarek looked at his appointment padd and said, "We are free this evening. Would you and T'sai Grayson prefer to come here for dinner?"
As he talked, Sarek could see Nellie Grayson peer over her husband's shoulder. "You have been away too long. Now I've got to train you all over again. You'd better call me Nellie if you want us to get along. None of that T'sai nonsense, y'hear? You and Spock come here. We're getting too old to transport all over the place. You two are younger. Besides, I've been cooking up a storm."
Sarek thought it best not to point out that he was, in fact, older than they were by several years. "We would be honored. What time do you wish us there?"
"Be here by 6 p.m. We'll eat at 7." Nellie thought for a bit, then asked, "Is that too late for Spock?"
"No, Spock is being tutored while he is here. His times are flexible," Sarek assured them. "We will be there at 6."
"Good, and bring your appetites!" Nellie said, beaming at him.
Later, as Sarek was changing into something more appropriate for dinner, Sasev interrupted him a second time with a comm call from the Federation High Council. Sarek's brow furrowed with concern. He hoped that there was not some crisis that would have to be dealt with immediately. To his surprise, the negotiations were halted for the holiday season and they would not resume until after the new year. Sarek thought the break was too long, but did not voice his concerns. After all, Amanda kept telling him, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans.' It would give him more time to spend with Spock selecting a Christmas tree for their suite at the Embassy. Amanda had stored the lights and ornaments in the basement of the Embassy, and Sarek was certain that he would be able to find the appropriate boxes, despite his wife's tendency to mislabel items. When Amanda arrived after the term ended at the Vulcan Science Academy, she would be pleased to see their rooms decorated for the Terran holiday. Then the three of them would plant the evergreen tree next to the other ones on the Embassy grounds.
Spock pressed his nose to the window of the shuttlecraft. It was only 5:45 p.m. Terran time, and it was already dark here in Maplewood, Minnesota, yet Spock could make out each house clearly. It was due to the lights that were outlining all the buildings, and even some of the trees in the area. He had never seen anything like it before in his life. Unsure of its significance, he turned to ask Sarek only to find his father watching him fondly.
"Quite spectacular, is it not?" Sarek asked his son.
"Indeed. What is the significance of the lights, Father? I can see no real pattern concerning color or number from house to house. Does it signify clan residence?" Spock once again watched the lights pass before his eyes.
"No, my son. The lights are one manner in which many Terrans celebrate their Christmas holiday. Your mother celebrates it as well, and certainly you will see more of this at your grandparent's house. Other customs are to decorate a tree in a somewhat similar fashion and to exchange gifts with your clan members."
Spock's eyes brightened in recognition. "Yes. Mother has told me about the gift giving custom. Will we be participating in this ritual with my grandparents?"
Sarek arched an eyebrow in contemplation. He had been too busy since their arrival on Earth to give much thought to the Terran holiday, other than decorating their suite at the Embassy. "I had not considered this, but I suppose your grandparents will expect us to participate in the holiday since we are present. We will have to go shopping for presents soon. There are only four days left until they are to be exchanged. We will have to come up with ideas for appropriate gifts when we return to the Embassy."
The shuttle pulled into a long drive that led to an isolated house surrounded by forest. The house was lit by thousands of tiny lights, as were the fence, and several nearby trees. They were very bright against the background of the night sky. Even before they could make it to the front door, a small elderly female came rushing out to greet them. She barely came up to Sarek's shoulder, even with her silver grey hair piled atop her head, and yet somehow she managed to reach her arm around Sarek's neck to pull him down for a quick embrace and kiss upon the cheek.
She held Sarek's face in her hands a moment longer. "Let me look at you. Has that daughter of mine been taking care of you?"
"Yes, she has. Even when I do not deserve it," Sarek told his mother-in-law with warmth in his eyes.
"Hmph. Well, that can't be very often," Nellie Grayson told him with a smile.
Spock was dumbfounded to see anyone take such liberties with his father. And his father permitting it. Even his mother restrained herself in his presence, although Spock had caught his parents engaged in ... peculiar ... embraces of various sorts without their knowledge.
Before Spock could recover from his first shock, the woman reached out to plant a very wet kiss upon his own cheek. He instinctively started to pull back, but she then grabbed his face between both her hands, squeezing a little harder than he thought was necessary, and scrutinized his features. Spock looked at his father for assistance, but he didn't seem likely to intervene.
"Sarek, he's absolutely beautiful! My God, you've grown a couple of feet since that last time I saw you, Spock. I think you're going to be taller than your father," she told him. "Oh, look at me keeping you two out in this cold. Mandy would have my head! Come in, come in."
"It's about time you let them come in from the cold, instead of standing out here slobbering all over them," Alfred Grayson said from the doorway. Winking at Spock he deliberately held his hand up in the Vulcan ta'al.
Spock raised his hand in return. "Live long and prosper, Grandfather," Spock said solemnly.
"Peace and long life," Alfred Grayson returned. Then he turned to his son-in-law and greeted him as well as they entered the foyer. Spock followed Sarek into the house where he was assaulted by an unfamiliar, but very pleasant odor. Nellie took their coats and hung them in the closet in the hallway.
"I wasn't slobbering, Al. Besides, I haven't seen either of them in nearly three years. I'll slobber on them if I feel like it." Spock raised his eyebrow at his father who merely looked amused with the entire exchange.
"Nell, the boy's a grown-up now. Walked all the way across the desert by himself only to be slobbered to death in Minnesota," Spock's grandfather said, winking at him again. Spock was secretly pleased at his grandfather's acknowledgment of his kahs wan.
"Grown-up, my foot. Just so long as he doesn't get too big for his britches," Nellie declared looking Spock right in the eye.
"Britches?" Spock asked curiously.
"You heard me," his grandmother said as she left them to check on dinner.
"Pants," his grandfather told him as if that cleared up the entire incident. "Well, come on in," he continued as he ushered them into the living room. "Football's on. Vikings against Green Bay."
As they followed Alfred Grayson into the other room, Spock looked down at his trousers surreptitiously. He did not think that he was oversized for them, but he would check with his mother when she arrived on Terra just to be certain.
During a break in the football game, Sarek and Alfred chatted about Federation affairs. Spock lost interest in their discussion and got up and inspected the pictures on the mantlepiece. One was of a small girl and a large beast of some sort.
"That's your mother when she was just a little thing. With Mr. Dillon," his grandfather said from behind him.
"Mr. Dillon?" Spock asked curiously. There was no other person in the picture with his mother.
"Yep. She was crazy about that horse. Got mad because we wouldn't let her sleep in the barn, too."
"I have never seen such a creature. It is quite fascinating," Spock said, his gaze still on the animal's large, liquid eyes.
"They're all bedded down for the night, but you'll have plenty of time to see the horses while you're on Earth. I'll bet I can even scare up a saddle that'll be just right for you. Then I can teach you how to ride," his grandfather said, letting his hand fall lightly on Spock's shoulder.
"That would be acceptable, Grandfather," Spock told him.
"It would, would it? That's what I thought you'd say. Well, tell you what I'd find acceptable. Why don't you go see if you can rustle us up a couple of cookies from your grandmother?" Alfred told him conspiratorially.
"As you wish, Grandfather," Spock replied, then set off to find his grandmother. As he wound through the hallways, Spock looked around the home where his mother grew up. It was small compared to their house on Vulcan, but it had a certain comfort to it that his didn't have. Still, he couldn't picture his mother living here.
He saw a painting that intrigued him. It was of the house and surrounding farm buildings in the daytime, the sun glinting off the snow. Squinting, he looked at the signature at the bottom right of the work of art, but couldn't read it. Still looking at the pictures and paintings on the walls, he made his way to the kitchen.
The kitchen was warm and smelled of some sort of confection that his grandmother had been baking. Curious, Spock looked around to find the source and was amazed to find the counters covered with various cookies, candies, and other treats. His grandmother noticed him eyeing the mounds of sweets. "I wasn't sure what you would like," she offered as explanation.
"Neither am I," Spock said breathlessly as he drew closer to inspect the goodies.
"Well, I guess you'll have to try them all then, won't you? Go ahead, pick one." She smiled as she saw him trying to decide. Sarek entered the kitchen behind his son. "Well, look what the cat dragged in. I knew you couldn't resist the smell of my homemade cookies for too long," Nellie told her son-in-law.
"You have a cat as well as horses?" Spock asked his grandmother. He had seen pictures of such animals. They were pets similar to his sehlat, I-Chaya.
His grandmother laughed out loud, reminding Spock of his mother. "Now that you mention it, yes, we do have a cat around here somewhere," she said. "But that was just an expression."
"An idiom," Sarek clarified, noting the puzzled look on Spock's face.
"Ah," Spock commented as if he understood what they were talking about. "Grandmother, who painted that picture of your house I saw in the hallway?" he asked.
"Why, I did, Spock. Do you like it?"
"I find the colors to be aesthetically pleasing. I was unaware that you painted."
"Well, I haven't done any in a while. My paints are getting low and I just haven't had the time to go into town and get some more. I probably will, after the Christmas rush has died down," she sighed. "So, which cookie would you like?" she asked.
Spock began to concentrate in earnest on the selection of sweets. He decided to start with a cookie that was in the shape of a tree and had green candies on it. He took it off the counter then looked to his father for permission to eat it.
Nellie saw this and reassured her grandson before Sarek could comment. "It's all right. One cookie won't spoil your dinner, and it'll be a little while before we eat anyway."
Sarek looked at his bondmate's mother bemusedly, then addressed his son. "You may have one, Spock. It is a special occasion and is permissible. Take your treat into the living room and take one for your grandfather as well."
"Yes, Father." Spock quickly selected another cookie for his grandfather and scooted out of the room, eager to taste this new food.
Nellie began to prepare four coffee mugs, two with coffee, one with tea for Sarek, and one with cocoa for Spock. She noticed Sarek looking over the selection of treats carefully. "Are you just going to look at them, or are you going to actually try one?" she teased, handing him the cup of tea, then loading the other three drinks onto a silver tray.
Sarek looked at his mother-in-law sheepishly. "Did you make any pinwheels this year?"
She struggled not to laugh. "Yes, as soon as I knew you were coming. They're behind the fudge at the end. I had to hide them from Al or they'd be long gone by now. Come on, let's see if we can tear him away from that football game."
They moved into the living room to find Spock sitting on the floor at his grandfather's feet, watching the game on the vid and listening intently as Alfred explained the plays to him. They both munched on their cookies as their eyes followed the sport.
"Alfred, can't you stop watching that for tonight and visit with your family?" his wife scolded.
"It's almost over, Nell. Besides, I'm broadening Spock's cultural horizons here," he said, looking to Sarek for support.
Sarek knew that watching football was a favorite pastime of Alfred's, although it had never held much interest for him. But baseball was a different story. Sarek found that sport to be fascinating and he had spent many evenings sitting in this very chair next to his father-in-law absorbing every aspect of the game. Spock, however, seemed to be enjoying the football match.
Nellie set the tray down on the coffee table, then wordlessly placed a mug in her husband's hand. She tapped Spock on the shoulder and held out the mug of cocoa. Spock gripped it tightly by the handle.
"It's hot. Careful so you don't burn your tongue," she cautioned.
"Yes, Grandmother," Spock replied, delicately sipping from the cup. His right eyebrow arched upward. Cocoa was quite satisfactory.
Satisfied that Spock was not in danger of scalding himself, Nellie turned her attention to her son-in-law. "So, how are your negotiations proceeding?"
"Quite well, I believe. They will not be completed until after the new year, however. The Council is in recess for the holidays," Sarek told her.
"Good. You work too hard as it is. Sarek, I spoke with Amanda earlier today. She seemed so down about missing Spock's first real Christmas."
Sarek's jaw tightened fractionally at the mention of his bondmate. He had not been separated from her very often during their marriage, and now that his mind was not occupied with the negotiations, he found himself illogically wishing that she were here. "Indeed. I will make a point of calling her when I return to the Embassy. I thought that tomorrow after his lessons I would take Spock to obtain a Christmas tree for our suite," Sarek told his mother-in-law evenly.
"Embassy? I won't hear of it. There's no way that my son-in-law and grandson are spending Christmas alone. There's a Christmas tree right here in Maplewood with your names on it. You Vulcans and your formality! I can't believe I've practically got to send you all an invitation. Family doesn't need an invite. It's been so long since we've seen you all."
Sarek looked away from the emotion in her dark blue eyes ... so much like Amanda's. "I know. I regret that it has taken this long for us to return to Terra. There was never an appropriate time. Spock and I would be honored to attend your holiday celebration."
Nellie sighed thoughtfully. "There you go. That wasn't so hard, was it?" Then her voice softened. "I know you didn't mean to be away for so long. We understand the demands of your position, Sarek. I just wish that Amanda could be here. Isn't there anyone who could have finished the rest of Amanda's classes for her?"
Sarek shook his head. "You know your daughter, Nellie. She does not believe that anyone is capable of teaching her class as well as she can, particularly when it comes to Saarvan's theories ... and she may be right."
Nellie pursed her lips then nodded her head. They all knew how headstrong Amanda could be about some things. Sarek heard Alfred grunt in agreement he supposed, then heard his son's distracted voice above the game's noise. "She can not possibly be more qualified than Saarvan himself."
Sarek didn't respond, but arched an eyebrow at his son's logic. When he got back to the embassy tonight, he would have to make a few inquiries on Vulcan.
* * *
It was a late night for both of them as they finally arrived back at the Embassy after midnight. The dinner was delicious, and Sarek noted that Spock filled up on the sweets. Nellie made sure that he took some home with him, just because it was Christmas. Sarek let her indulge the child, provided it didn't become excessive. His eyes softened when he watched the interplay between Spock and his human grandparents. He remembered how they had gone out of their way to make him feel part of the family when Amanda had brought him to visit them for the first time. He also noted that Spock's control was not the best, but never called him on it as Sarek thought the cause was sufficient. After all, Spock had never been on Earth during the Christmas season before, and he remembered how his own controls slipped when he first experienced the holiday.
He took a sleepy Spock up to his room and tucked him in bed, quietly closing the door behind him as he left the room. Then he entered his study, sat down and reached for a padd. On it, he made a list of presents that he and Spock could get for the Graysons and Amanda. Picking up another padd, he made another list of potential ideas he had for Spock's own gift, as well as something more personal for his wife. He made several comm calls to various establishments, thankful that they accepted orders twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
After placing the orders and being assured that the items for Spock and Amanda would arrive no later than tomorrow noon, he decided that sleep, more than meditation was what he needed. Before he went to bed, he contacted the Embassy switchboard and made a call to Vulcan. When he had finished the call to his satisfaction, he finally went to bed and fell into a deep sleep.
The following afternoon while Spock was with his tutor, Sarek wrapped the items he had ordered for his wife and son. When that task was accomplished, he commed Amanda's parents to discuss their plans for the holiday and to let them know when he and Spock would be arriving. Then, Sarek gathered Spock from his lessons and they headed out among the throng to do their Christmas shopping. Spock and Sarek had discussed what they would buy before they left the Embassy, so they had already mapped out a route that would efficiently take them to the various stores that had the listed items.
Spock's eyes were wide as they went from store to store. Sounds assailed their ears as they strode down the streets, gazing through the store windows, looking at the items displayed within. They would arrive at one of the intended stores, enter it and make their purchase. Sarek would cross the item off his list, and they would head to their next destination.
The final item on their list was for Amanda. Sarek steered Spock into James Brothers jewelry store. He had always been able to acquire excellent gifts for Amanda at this establishment.
As the bell on the door tinkled with their entry, a small man in an impeccable suit looked up and smiled broadly. "Ambassador Sarek! What a nice surprise. What has it been? Let's see. Five years?"
"4.763 years to be precise," Sarek responded.
"That's what I thought," the man returned. "And I see you've brought a young one with you today."
"Yes. This is my son, Spock. Spock, this is Mr. James," Sarek introduced.
"I'm pleased to meet you, sir," Spock said seriously.
"The pleasure is mine, Spock," James told him. Leaning down to Spock's level he addressed the boy. "Let me guess. Are we here to select a gift for the Lady Amanda?"
"Yes," Spock answered definitively.
"Well, then. Let's have a look," the man said, directing Spock and Sarek to the center glass case. Spock's eyes were dazzled by all the glitter within.
"Was there anything in particular you had in mind?" James addressed his question once again to Spock. Spock looked up at his father questioningly. Sarek lifted an eyebrow at him, then nodded.
"No, sir. We thought that perhaps you might recommend something suitable," Spock said formally.
"Hmmm. Well, a zeotite pendant to go with the earrings she already has might be a possibility," the man said pulling out a silver pendant with a fiery red stone in the middle. When he placed it on a black piece of cloth, Spock's eyes widened. It reminded him of the sands of his homeworld. His mother often wore earrings that were the same color. Sarek leaned over to get a better view of the pendant. As his father picked it up and inspected it in the light, Spock's eyes wandered to the next display case. His body soon followed his eyes. Spellbound, he did not hear his father's voice. Philip James smiled at Sarek, then both men joined Spock at the other counter.
"Have you found something to your liking, my son?" Sarek's voice broke Spock's reverie.
"I was just thinking that this might be a logical gift for Mother," Spock said distractedly.
"And beautiful as well," Sarek noted as he looked at the object.
"An excellent choice," James commented. "I believe the Lady Amanda would be quite pleased." He lifted the item from the display case and placed it reverently on a sheet of black velvet. "Exquisite, if I do say so myself. My brother has outdone himself with this particular design. Quite unique. There isn't another one like it in the entire universe."
Spock looked at the gold ring mesmerized, reached out his hand to touch it, then quickly pulled his hand back and looked up at his father. Sarek nodded his permission. Spock picked it up and examined it closely, then handed it to Sarek for his inspection.
"I can have it ready for you this afternoon, depending on the number of birthstones you require," the shop owner told them.
"Birthstones?" Spock asked curiously.
"Yes. A Mother's Ring contains gemstones corresponding to the months her children were born in. Sometimes people like to get their mother's own birthstone as well, and any other months that are significant. Later, we can add the birthstones for her grandchildren as well."
Spock looked at Sarek with confusion. He had no idea which gemstones were needed. He thought that the ring was ready for sale.
Sarek took over the proceedings. "Spock was born in the Earth month of November, and Amanda was born in May," Sarek told him.
"I think you would balance the ring better aesthetically with an additional two gemstones. What about your wedding anniversary and your own birthdate, Ambassador?" Mr. James suggested.
Sarek looked down at Spock and raised an eyebrow. "What do you think, Spock?"
"I believe that Mother would find those dates to be significant," Spock responded thoughtfully.
"That would be acceptable, Mr. James. We were married in September and my birthdate falls in August," Sarek told the jeweler.
"Great. Your taste is impeccable, Spock. I'm certain that your mother will enjoy it. Oh, one other thing. Do her other rings still fit well, Ambassador?"
"Yes, they do," Sarek informed him.
"Then I will make some minor adjustments to the sizing. This one is very close, but might be just a little large for her. I'll have it ready for you by five o'clock."
Having completed their shopping in less than three hours, Sarek decided to treat Spock for his excellent behavior during the shopping mission.
"Spock, are you hungry?" Sarek asked his son.
"I am getting hungry, Father, yes," Spock admitted, looking at his father laden down with parcels.
"It would be logical for us to eat and rest," Sarek said. "I know of a restaurant not far from here that serves excellent meals. Would you like to eat there?"
Spock's eyes widened at the suggestion. Never before had his father taken him to a restaurant without his mother present as well. "I would be honored, Father," he said in his most solemn voice.
Sarek suppressed a smile as he looked at his serious eight-year-old son. "Then that is what we shall do. Come, it is only another block away and I can use the rest." Hefting the parcels, they headed up the street toward the bay and food.
The restaurant overlooked the San Francisco bay and Sarek and Spock were seated at a table by a large window. Sarek gazed out the window, his mouth curving upward slightly as he thought of his first "date" with Amanda at this very restaurant. The two of them had always come here for celebrations of any sort and made a point of stopping for lunch when they did their Christmas shopping together.
Spock's eyes never left the scenic view until his father asked him what he wished to eat. He hadn't even glanced at the menu yet, so enthralled he was by the ships and boats coming and going on the bay.
"Spock," Sarek said, trying to get his son's attention. "You must choose an item from the menu or I will choose for you. You know your choices and mine are rarely the same."
Spock tore his gaze away from the window and studied the menu as seriously as he studied his lessons. "I will have the lasagna if I may. And chocolate milk. A large one, please."
Sarek nodded at his son's choice and said that he would have the same, but instead of chocolate milk, he would have Altair water.
After giving the waiter their order, he and Spock talked about their shopping experience and speculated about where the ships on the bay were heading. Spock told his father about his lessons and how pleased he was to be able to use the Embassy computer, but that he would never abuse his privilege; how his room at the Embassy was very nice, but the bed was too soft, and numerous other topics of interest to a eight-year-old.
After dinner, they returned to the jewelry store to pick up Amanda's gift. Mr. James had been correct. The four stones perfectly complemented the ring's curved design. Sarek called the Embassy to come and take them home. They were tired and they still had to wrap all the presents before they went back to the Grayson's the following day. Before he went to bed, he checked the Terran weather uplinks from the terminal in his office. Downloading the data into his padd, he made some quick calculations. Sitting back in his chair, Sarek's mouth quirked upward. Conditions were looking quite favorable, indeed.
* * *
Amanda closed the communication link with Sarek. The Federation negotiations were going well in his estimation, but were not yet completed. He told her that he and Spock had visited her parents for dinner and that Spock had found the Christmas lights to be quite fascinating. She gave Sarek explicit instructions on locating the boxes of decorations and Christmas lights in the Embassy basement, after he mentioned that he and Spock were making preparations for the holiday. Sighing, she gathered up her notes for her lecture and headed for the lecture hall, her heart heavy. She so wanted to be there too. As she entered the hall, the students quieted down and waited as she organized her notes at the lectern. Just then, a murmur rippled through the class, quietly at first, then louder. Amanda looked up sharply to admonish the students when she saw a shape coming down the aisle toward her. Squinting from the lights, she tried to make out who it was, then her eyes widened in disbelief. It was Saarvan -- the man behind the theory she was teaching.
"Greetings, T'sai Amanda. I am here at the request of your bondmate and my old schoolmate. I will be lecturing your class until the end of the term so you can have enough time to reach Earth for a clan celebration of sorts. I believe that I am capable of teaching it, would you agree?"
Amanda was dumbstruck. "Y-y-yes, of course!" she stammered. "I don't know what to say. Thank you, Saarvan."
He nodded at her thanks. "You need not worry about your examinations being marked. Your assistant will do this when she recovers from her illness. I am also to inform you that there is a diplomatic shuttle waiting to depart. Sarek's brother has packed a bag for you and it is already on the vessel. You have fifteen point seven minutes. It is wise not to delay." With that said, he turned to the class and started to teach about the theory he made so famous.
Amanda briskly strode out of the classroom, then broke into a run to the Vulcan Science Academy transporter station. The operator was expecting her and had a pad ready when she got there. That husband of hers was going to have to explain his very un-Vulcan behavior. Of course he probably already had prepared an argument that would make his actions seem perfectly logical. Once on the shuttle, she relaxed as tears of love coursed down her cheeks. I love you, Sarek, she thought. So very, very much!
* * *
The following afternoon, Sarek, Spock, a carryall, and numerous brightly-wrapped gifts arrived at the Grayson's farm. After being greeted by a Vulcan ta'al from Alfred and a kiss by Nellie, they removed their coats. A mug of hot tea was offered to Sarek and hot cocoa was shoved into Spock's eager grip.
Alfred turned to Sarek and said, "Well?"
"All is well. It has been taken care of. She should be here by tomorrow afternoon. It was the best I could do."
"Does she know?" Nellie asked as she came and stood beside her husband.
"She knows she is coming to Earth, but she is unaware of exactly where on Earth she will be transporting down to," Sarek said, the corners of his mouth curling up very slightly.
"Excellent. It pays having friends in high places, eh, Sarek?" Alfred nudged Sarek in the side when he spoke.
"Indeed," was all he said. Sarek and Spock placed their presents under the undecorated Christmas tree, then Sarek took their carryall up to the bedroom he and Amanda would be using. Spock's room was across the hall. He laid out Spock's clothing and pajamas on the bed for his son to put away later.
Going back down the stairs, he heard Christmas music coming from the player in the living room. Spock and his in-laws were sitting around the tree, talking. Spock was talking to his grandparents, looking at holopics kept in a book. As Sarek sat beside Spock on the couch, the conversation between Spock and Alfred halted, then Nellie piped up. "So, Spock. What did you do yesterday?"
Spock regaled his grandparents with his description of his shopping mission. Sarek listened carefully to make sure Spock didn't tell them what he got them, but he needn't have worried. Spock knew how to keep a secret.
It was an early night for the extended family. They all knew Amanda would be arriving the next afternoon, and they wanted to get a good sleep before that happened.
Spock sat up straight. Someone was in his room. Only this wasn't his room. The figure was coming right at him. Spock woke up completely.
"I see that you are already awake, my son," his father's voice came softly from the darkness.
"Father," Spock said with relief. "Is it time to get up?" It was quite dark outside. And very quiet.
"Yes, but be quiet. I do not wish to wake your grandparents." Then it dawned on Spock that he was on Terra in his grandparent's house. "Put on your fleece undergarments and your warmest socks and boots," Sarek told him. "And the new outer garments that we purchased while shopping."
"We are going outside?" Spock asked curiously.
"Yes, we are," his father told him. "I will get your jacket, hat and gloves. Meet me in the kitchen."
Before Spock could question him further, Sarek disappeared. Dressing quickly in the dark, Spock hurried down the steps.
Sarek was already in the kitchen putting on his heavy coat and hat. Spock's winter clothing was hanging over the back of a chair. Spock put on his jacket and zipped it up. Sarek pulled a knit cap over Spock's ears. Then both Vulcans put on their gloves.
"Ready?" Sarek asked.
"Yes sir," Spock replied, not sure what he was ready for exactly.
Sarek opened the back door noiselessly and motioned for Spock to join him. Spock's mouth dropped open before he remembered his control.
White. Everywhere. As far as the eye could see. It covered everything and was still falling from the sky. Spock's eyelashes got wet as he looked up at the night sky, speechless. The air was so still. The tree branches were completely coated, heavy with whiteness. He could not quell his enthusiasm as he looked at his father. "It is snowing, Father!"
"Indeed," Sarek responded, arching an eyebrow at his son, the briefest hint of a smile passing his lips. His weather forecasting had been surprisingly accurate. Amanda would be pleased that Spock was able to see this meteorological phenomenon first hand.
Recalling his first experience with snow, Sarek bent down and scooped up a handful. Perfect. It was just wet enough to hold together. Spock watched intently as Sarek carefully molded it into a small sphere. "You try it," Sarek suggested.
Spock gingerly stuck his glove in the snow and replicated Sarek's creation.
"Ready?" his father asked for the second time that night.
"Yes." Spock sputtered as Sarek's little white sphere struck him in the chest. He looked at his father with astonishment. Had Sarek really just thrown frozen precipitation at him? Sarek lifted an eyebrow at him as Spock looked at him uncertainly, then launched his own sphere at Sarek.
Sarek bent down and made another projectile and Spock did the same. This time Spock threw his first and Sarek sidestepped its path, pivoting and taking aim with his own sphere.
"Now I've seen it all! What in tarnation is going on out here? It's the middle of the night," Nellie's voice came from the back stoop. She was bundled up for the cold.
"I believe it is a Terran tradition called a 'snowball fight' if I am not mistaken," Sarek replied drolly.
"You'd better get my grandson in here this instant before he turns into an icicle," she retorted, laughing as she went back into the house.
"Come, Spock. We have been outside long enough for right now. I do not wish to explain to your mother how you came to be treated for frostbite."
"Yes, Father," Spock said, picking up one final handful of snow. He had the strangest urge to taste it.
"Go ahead and try it," his father encouraged, remembering Amanda twirling around this very yard catching snowflakes on her tongue, coaxing him to do the same.
Spock tentatively stuck his tongue out. "Interesting. Mother will be pleased that there is snow."
"Indeed. I would imagine that when she arrives she will teach you how to construct a being out of the snow," Sarek told him.
"A being made out of snow?" Spock asked him with astonishment.
"Yes. A snowman," Sarek answered.
"Snowman?" Spock said with wonder. How could such a phenomenon be possible? Sarek looked down at his son fondly and Spock arched a quizzical eyebrow at him. Then, they went back inside where Nellie had already made them two mugs of cocoa. After they warmed up, all three quietly went back upstairs to bed.
That morning after breakfast, Spock seemed almost anxious to Sarek. "What is the matter, my son?" he asked. "Are you unwell?"
"I am fine, Father," Spock said slowly.
"You seem anxious, Spock. Why?"
"I want Mother's Christmas to be perfect," Spock admitted. "What if she is displeased with the present we got her?"
Sarek turned in his chair at the breakfast table and faced his serious son. "I will tell you a secret, my son. Whatever gift you give to your mother will be perfection itself as far as she is concerned. It is not the gift, Spock, but the sentiment behind the gift that will make it perfect."
"But, Father, sentimentality is an emotion," Spock whispered, wondering how his father would react to such an accusation. "It is forbidden."
Sarek felt a pang of guilt and remorse course through him. Had he been so harsh with his son that Spock felt that emotions were forbidden? Had he not distinguished enough between the actual emotion and the actions that the emotions caused? Clearly, he had not. "Spock," he said, laying a hand on the thin shoulder, "Vulcans have emotions, and they themselves are not forbidden. It is the behavior caused by the emotion that is not to be expressed. However, having said that, emotions expressed, somewhat, within the family are acceptable. Especially emotions which do not increase entropy, such as love, and sentimentality."
Spock looked at him, unsure of what Sarek was trying to tell him, but accepted his father's word. "So, you think she will like our present?"
The corners of Sarek's mouth turned up in a small smile. "She will like it very much, son. Do not concern yourself."
At that moment, Alfred walked into the kitchen. "Ah, I see you're both awake now. I thought you two were going to sleep all day. I have to go to town this morning." Turning to his grandson, he winked and said, "Spock, do you want to come with me? I could use a hand."
"Yes, Grandfather. I would be pleased to accompany you." Spock slid from his chair and went to get his coat.
Sarek looked at Alfred, wondering if there was something going on between them, but dismissed the thought from his mind.
"What are you looking at?" Alfred teased Sarek. Then he looked out the window. "Hey, look what happened overnight. It snowed."
"Indeed," Sarek commented. "It seems that the weather forecast was accurate," he said, his face giving away nothing about their nocturnal adventure.
"Huh. I had the strangest dream though. I could've sworn that I saw a couple of elves frolicking in the yard in the snow. I gotta lay off that eggnog..." Alfred finished with a broad grin.
"Indeed. It appears to impair your nervous system," Sarek responded, the corner of his mouth lifting fractionally.
"What are elves?" Spock inquired, returning bundled up in his coat and hat.
"I'll tell you all about it on the way," his grandfather said, putting a hand on Spock's shoulder and guiding him out the back door.
* * *
Spock stood in front of a large display of glass objects, his head cocked to one side. One in particular captivated him. Inside the glass sphere was a miniature house and barn decorated with Christmas lights. In a fenced-off square next to the barn, stood two brown horses. White flakes covered the ground of the tiny farm and the entire thing was filled with liquid. Spock wanted to pick the item up to see if he could determine how the small buildings and animals had come to be inside it, but he was reluctant to do so since the object appeared to be fragile.
"Find something you like, Spock?" his grandfather asked as he returned from the perfume counter.
"This is fascinating, Grandfather. I am unable to determine how it is constructed, however," Spock said, gesturing to the round object.
"Oh, that's a snowglobe, Spock. Pick it up and shake it. Go ahead," his grandfather encouraged when he saw Spock's uncertainty.
Spock used both hands to pick up the globe containing the small farm. He turned it upside down to examine the bottom, then he turned it right-side up again. To his surprise, the flakes of white on the ground were now swirling around in the liquid. "It looks like snow falling!" Spock said with excitement, suddenly grasping the function of the object.
"Yep, it sure does. I think that might be why they call 'em snowglobes," his grandfather dead-panned. "Amanda used to have one when she was a girl. Got it out every year for Christmas. I think it got knocked off her desk and broken when she was away at college." Alfred Grayson smiled at his grandson shaking the globe more vigorously. "Well, what do you think Spock? Reckon we oughta get it for her?"
"I do not believe that I have sufficient funds, Grandfather." Spock had spent the majority of his allowance on Sarek's present.
"I think I can cover your expenses on this one," his grandfather told him. "I could reimburse you when I receive my next allowance," Spock considered.
"That seems fair enough. Deal?" Alfred asked.
"Deal," Spock responded as his grandfather had taught him earlier in their shopping excursion.
Later that morning, Spock and his grandfather returned. They went into Alfred's study for several minutes, then Spock raced to his room. Sarek was sitting in the living room, reading when they came home, his long legs stretched toward the fireplace. His curiosity was piqued, but he had learned not to be too curious around this time of year.
When Spock came downstairs finally, his hands were behind his back. "Father, I wish you to turn around please."
Sarek raised an eyebrow, but complied with his son's wishes. "You will inform me when I may face you again, will you?" he asked.
"Of course. Just a minute longer. Okay, now you can turn around."
When Sarek did, his son was the picture of innocence. That raised Sarek's suspicions immediately, but they were not acted upon. "What do you wish to do today until your mother arrives?" Sarek asked, wanting to occupy Spock.
"I would like to see the horses, if I may," Spock ventured.
"Then that is what we shall do. Get dressed warmly as the barn is unheated."
They dressed in their winter coats, boots, hats, mitts, and scarves and ventured out in the cold. Spock had never been so cold in his young life and he didn't like it much. It was much colder than when he and Sarek had been outside during the night. They trudged through the snow to the barn. Inside were three horses, the steam rising from their warm bodies. They turned to look at the bundled humanoids, then returned to their eating. Alfred Grayson was in the barn as well, pitching more hay down to them. "Hello!" he yelled from the hayloft. "Come to see the critters, have you?"
"They are very big, Grandfather," Spock said, keeping his distance from the stalls.
Alfred climbed down from the hayloft and came up to where Sarek and Spock were standing. "They won't hurt you. They're big, but very gentle. C'mere, I'll show you." He took Spock's hand and led him to the chestnut mare. "This is Tilly. She thinks she's a dog. Will follow you around all over the place, even into the house if you let her!" he chuckled.
Spock removed his mitt and stretched out his hand, gently petting the large animal. Through his touch, he could sense the animal's curiosity and contentment. Alarmed at invading her thoughts, he quickly snatched his hand away.
"What is it, Spock?" Sarek asked.
"I did not mean to. It was an accident," Spock said.
"What was an accident?" Sarek asked, concerned.
"I accidentally sensed Tilly's thoughts. I meant no invasion of privacy, honest, Father."
"It is all right, Spock. I am sure Tilly felt no invasion," Sarek assured his son. "You may touch her again, and if you wish, raise your mental shields to avoid contact with her mind. You have been taught how to do this; now is the time to practice. It is no different than with I-Chaya."
Alfred watched and listened to their conversation, glad he had no such ability to worry about. "Go ahead and pet her again. I think she likes it," he said.
The three of them spent many hours in the barn. Alfred let Spock pitch some hay down to the horses, but Spock ended up covered in the stuff. He did manage to get some down to the horses, though. Sarek declined to go up into the loft, but merely watched as Spock wrestled with the heavy hay.
Soon, it was time to go back to the house to get cleaned up for Amanda's arrival. She was supposed to beam down at 2:30 p.m. sharp, and Sarek was confident that she would be on time, if he knew Vulcan efficiency.
After they took off their coats, Sarek marched Spock straight to the bathroom so that they wouldn't get hay dust all over the house. Spock looked like he had brought most of the barn inside the house with him. There was no sonic shower at the house, so they would have to use the old-fashioned water shower.
"Have you ever used a water shower before, Spock?" Sarek asked. There was one in the master bath in their house on Vulcan for Amanda's comfort in the overwhelming heat. To his knowledge, Spock had never used it, though.
"No, Father. Is it like a sonic shower?" Spock returned.
"Not quite. It is somewhat. Difficult to master at first," Sarek told him, remembering the first time he had ever tried a water shower. It had seemed quite simple in theory. In practice, however, it was much harder than he had imagined. He had ended up with his eyes red and stinging from the shampoo, his sinuses burning from the water that went up his nose, and his hearing impaired for the rest of the day from water sloshing around in his right ear. The Healer at the Embassy had been mystified as to why Sarek had even ventured into the water shower to begin with.
He did not have time for Spock to engage in his own empirical investigation. With Amanda due to arrive soon, Sarek did not want to risk his son having a similar experience.
"If it is acceptable to you, Spock, I will instruct you on the water shower and take my own shower at the same time. It would be the most efficient use of our time since your mother will be arriving soon," Sarek told him.
"That is a logical solution, Father," Spock replied.
As they undressed in the large bathroom, Sarek turned on the water and set it to a temperature that would not be uncomfortable for them. Once Spock was ready, Sarek stepped into the shower to show his son that he would not drown. Cautiously, Spock peered into the shower stall, then took Sarek's proffered hand. He entered the shower stall, gripping Sarek's hand tightly. Sarek maneuvered Spock so he was away from the pounding water and closer to the back of the stall. "Now watch, Spock. It is not like sonic showers. You have to soap yourself, then rinse off the soap in order to clean yourself in a water shower."
Sarek soaped himself down, then rinsed off the lather expertly as Amanda had taught him. Spock studied his father's movements, committing them to memory. When Sarek had finished, they switched places and Sarek handed Spock the soap. "Now it is your turn. I will be right here."
Spock took the slippery soap in his hand and started to lather his arm. Immediately, the soap squirted out of his wet hand and landed on Sarek's foot. He looked up at Sarek's face in horror.
"Pick up the soap, Spock."
Spock bent down to retrieve the bar and as he did, the water soaked his head. Spluttering, he stood up, the soap clutched in both hands. Water was streaming down his face; his hair was plastered to his scalp, his eyes tightly closed.
Sarek wiped the water from Spock's eyes with his large hands and said, "That is incentive not to drop the soap. It took me many showers to learn that. Here," he said, "give me the soap and I will lather it on you. If we take much longer, we will run out of hot water and you do not wish to be in a shower with no hot water. It is most unpleasant." Sarek quickly lathered the boy and told Spock to rinse himself off. Then Sarek took the shampoo and instructed Spock to close his eyes, plug his nose and dunk his head under the spray.
Spock looked at him warily. Sarek said, "You must have wet hair in order for the shampoo to lather correctly. Do as I say, Spock."
"But, Father, my hair is already wet."
"Dunk your head again, Spock. Quickly before the hot water is gone." Sarek emphasized his point by increasing the amount of hot water.
Dutifully, Spock did as he was ordered. Sarek lathered the shampoo in his hair, then told Spock to dunk again. As he did, Sarek made sure the shampoo was rinsed thoroughly, tilting Spock's head back to make sure that any remaining shampoo did not run into his tightly-closed eyes when he reopened them. Then he washed his own hair. The hot water finally ran out as he finished rinsing the shampoo from his thick hair. Sarek hurriedly shut off the water and both Vulcans left the stall. "That was close," Sarek muttered as he handed a thick towel to Spock to dry himself.
Once dry and dressed, they came down to the living room to wait for Amanda. Sarek made sure the center of the room was unoccupied, so the transporter operator would have a clear place to beam her down to.
* * *
Amanda waited impatiently in her quarters aboard the diplomatic shuttle. She knew they were close to Earth, and she was having a difficult time containing her excitement. She couldn't wait to see her Vulcans. It had been quite a while since she and Sarek had had to be separated, and she had never been away from Spock this long. She was so looking forward to the holidays here on Earth, what was left to see anyway, this being Christmas Eve. Knowing the Vulcan mindset, Spock was probably being tutored right this minute, and who knew what time Sarek would be finished with his Federation duties? They could still have a nice dinner together at the Embassy, though. She was curious to see how her husband and son had decorated their rooms for Christmas. Probably in a very logical fashion. They would have to make a point of visiting her parents for a while ... at least she and Spock could get away for a time, even if she had to pry him away from his studies. Oh, she couldn't wait to see Spock watch his first snowfall! Maybe she could convince him to go out with her and build a snowman ... if she worked on him a bit. Shoot, she managed to get Sarek to do it their first year together. If she could do that she could do anything!
"T'sai Amanda, we are in orbit around Terra. We are waiting to transport you to the planet surface at your convenience."
Amanda jumped off her bed and raced for the door at breakneck speed. Just before exiting she reigned herself and regained her control. By the time she entered the transporter room she appeared completely indifferent, except for her eyes, which shone brightly with her excitement. As she stepped up on the transporter pad she addressed the Captain and engineer. "Will you please beam my luggage to the Embassy?"
The two Vulcans looked at each other briefly, then the Captain answered for them. "Your belongings will be delivered promptly, T'sai."
"It was our honor to serve you, madam." He raised his hand in the ta'al. "Live long and prosper, T'sai Amanda."
Amanda returned the hand salute. "Peace and long life, Captain. To you and all of your crew."
The Captain bowed respectively to her then signaled the engineer to begin the beaming.
Amanda's first clue that something was amiss was the wonderful odor of baked cookies that reached her senses just before she fully materialized. When she looked around for the source, she was amazed to find herself in her parent's home, her entire family seated in a semi-circle around her, expecting her. She pinned her eyes on Sarek. "What am I doing here?"
Sarek arched his eyebrow and smiled slightly at her astonishment, "It seemed appropriate, considering that the rest of us were here. However, if you wish to spend Christmas alone at the Embassy then I'm sure the shuttle would be willing to assist."
Before Amanda could respond Spock attracted her attention, unable to completely contain his own excitement. "Mother, there is snow outside! And we are about to decorate a tree ... in the house!"
"It snowed already? We'll have to build a snowman, then." Amanda then looked behind her and saw the bare tree. "Oooh, you didn't do the tree yet? It's my favorite part!"
"We know, dear, that's why we waited." Alfred got up and kissed his daughter warmly. "Welcome home, baby." He turned to address his grandson. "Come on Spock, let's start sorting out those lights while your mother gets settled."
After those two left the room, Sarek and Nellie got up to greet Amanda themselves. "So," her mom said, "how did you possibly manage to find someone qualified enough to teach your classes?" Her grin matched her teasing tone.
Amanda smiled in return. "You know, Mother, sometimes that Vulcan stubbornness can pay off." She looked at her bondmate. "A school mate of Saarvan himself, huh?"
Sarek's face remained impassive. "Indeed. We attended the same primary school. This surprises you?"
Amanda shook her head disbelievingly. "I guess it shouldn't. I suppose sometimes I forget how old you really are," she teased.
Nellie chuckled and quickly left the room so Sarek could feel free to exact whatever revenge he chose, but when Amanda held out her fingers for an embrace, he swallowed his retort and relished in the feeling of having his t'hy'la with him again.
"Come on, I want some of those cookies! They smell wonderful." She started to walk through the doorway to the kitchen when Sarek's voice stopped her. "Amanda, wait."
She complied and as he slowly approached her, she patiently waited for him to say what it was he wanted of her. Instead he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight against him for a long, deep Human kiss. When he pulled away Amanda was breathless. "Sarek...uh..."
Seeing the question in her eyes, Sarek pointed directly above their heads. "I would not want to be accused of being lax in my duties."
Amanda looked up and saw a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the doorframe. "No, I guess not. That wouldn't be proper." She smiled and hugged him tight. "Thank you so much for doing this."
Sarek squeezed her back. "Let us go get your cookies, before Spock eats them all."
* * *
Having fed her sweet tooth, Amanda spoke quietly with her mother in the living room while waiting for the men to finish untangling the Christmas lights. After waiting for some time, Sarek had decided to assist Alfred and Spock, but this actually only hindered the progress because soon after he joined them, he and Alfred got into a friendly debate over how to properly store the lights so this would not be a concern next year. This left poor Spock alone to fight through the ball of wire, but finally he prevailed and they were ready to begin. First they got out the box of special ornaments, and both Spock and Sarek listened intently as the Grayson family relived special moments in their lives that were represented by each one. After they had been discussed and each given its special place on the tree, everyone joined in with placing the other baubles on the tree until it was completely covered. Finally, it was time to place the angel on top.
Alfred gently took the family heirloom out of it's plastic casing. "This angel has been atop a Grayson Christmas tree every year for the past 5 generations. It is tradition for the youngest member of the family to place it upon the tree. Spock, would you put the angel on our tree this year?"
Spock looked at the antique in his grandfather's hands. "I would be honored, sir," he said formally as he gently took it out of Alfred's hand.
"Be careful, Spock. It is very fragile," Sarek advised him.
Spock acknowledged his father's words then was lifted by his grandfather to assist him in reaching the top of the tree. He carefully seated the angel, a little afraid that it would fall off once he let go, but it remained in its place. Once that was completed his grandmother plugged in the tree for the grand finale. Everyone was silent as they marveled at the tree's beauty and elegance.
Suddenly Sarek stiffened a little before quietly announcing, "I hear singing."
The Humans all cocked their head and concentrated a moment before Amanda finally gasped and clapped her hands together excitedly. "Oh, carolers! Spock, come see this!" She grabbed her son's hand and dragged him over to the front door.
Upon opening it they saw a group of 12 people standing before them singing a sweet rendition of 'Silent Night'. Spock watched them curiously. "Are we supposed to pay them for their services?"
Amanda chuckled at his innocence. "No, dear. They don't do this for money. They do it to spread Christmas cheer."
Spock arched his little eyebrow. "Christmas cheer?"
Amanda looked at him patiently. "Yes, Spock. It's the feeling of peace and tranquillity that overcomes a lot of Humans this time of year. And generosity ... they do this to share their bliss with others."
Spock considered this moment before nodding his head solemnly. "Interesting."
This produced a laugh from both his mother and his grandparents. Not quite understanding the cause, he looked to Sarek for clarification but his father was watching his mother with the most curious expression on his face. Spock didn't understand that either, but it was obvious that his father wasn't concerned about it, so neither was he.
After being treated to one more song by the carolers, many of whom the Graysons knew from town, everyone departed amidst a barrage of "Merry Christmas". The men then cleaned up the boxes from the ornaments while the woman gave their dinner a quick check.
* * *
The next morning Spock watched his mother, fascinated. She took the sphere of snow that she and Spock had rolled across the yard and stacked it on top of two larger spheres.
"There. How's it looking, Spock?" Amanda asked her son.
Spock eyed the "snowman" critically. As far as he could tell, it did not look like a man at all. Nor did it resemble any other being he was familiar with. "I fail to see the resemblance to a man, Mother," Spock told her honestly.
"Oh, well, we're not quite done yet, Spock. Just wait. You'll see!" she said smiling at him. His cheeks had a dark green tint from the cold. She hoped he wasn't getting too cold. She would have to keep an eye on him just to be sure.
"Okay. Now hand me the box of stuff we brought outside with us," she instructed, rubbing her gloved hands together in anticipation. Spock loped to the porch and picked up the cardboard box he had helped his mother pack in the kitchen. Spock could see no logical relationship among the items. He set the box on the ground next to the "snowman" and looked at his mother expectantly.
She looked in the box, then cocked her head to the side and considered the spheres of snow. "Spock, run down to the barn and get me that old broom hanging near the door. I think it's on the left side," she told him.
"Yes, Mother." Spock took off for the barn. He knew exactly where Grandfather kept the broom. As he ran back to the yard, he wondered why they would be sweeping snow.
"You found it. Good," his mother told him as she sorted through the box. "Now go over there to the wood pile and see if you can find me two tree branches about this long," she instructed, holding her arms wide apart. Spock went to the wood pile and began inspecting it for branches. There was one big branch with several medium branches attached. Struggling with the size, he dragged it back to the yard.
"Did you bring the whole tree?" his mother teased him.
"This was the only thing that seemed to approximate the dimensions you gave me, Mother. I had to estimate," Spock began.
"Oh, no! Just an estimate, huh? I think it will work just fine Spock," Amanda told him. She put her boot on one of the limbs and broke it off. Then she snapped off a second branch.
"Okay, you can take the rest of it back to the wood pile," she said as she pulled some of the smaller branches off of the two pieces she had selected. When Spock returned she was sticking the branches on either side of the middle sphere. "Now we've got some arms on him," Amanda commented.
Arms? Spock raised an eyebrow.
Amanda caught his expression. "This isn't an exact science, Spock. You have to use your imagination a bit."
"Obviously," Spock returned.
It was Amanda's turn to raise an eyebrow at him. Was he developing a sense of humor after only a week on Earth?
Spock became even more curious when his mother lifted a carrot out of the box. He could not fathom what this vegetable might have to do with a snowman. She twisted it into the center of the smallest topmost sphere. "And now he has a nose," she said over her shoulder.
Nose? Spock supposed that it did somewhat resemble a nose.
His mother held out two black squares of coal, which Spock tentatively took from her hands. He looked at the squares, then at the snowman. Then it hit him. "Eyes!" he exclaimed, moving up to the smallest sphere. He carefully arranged them around the snowman's nose, then stepped back to survey his work. He glanced at his mother for her opinion.
"Looks good," she said. Reaching into the box she took out a small container of red candies and tossed it to Spock. He looked at her quizzically.
"Well, he's got eyes and a nose so far," she hinted.
Spock took out several of the candies and arranged them in a straight line under the nose. It was only logical that the snowman have a mouth.
Amanda took three small pieces of coal and put them in a vertical line down the front of the middle sphere. "Buttons for his coat," she told Spock helpfully.
"Of course," he responded, picking up the scarf out of the box. He had a pretty good idea that the snowman would be wearing it around his neck. Amanda handed him a knit cap and he placed it on top of what was apparently the snowman's head. Stepping back, Spock noticed that was indeed beginning to resemble a person. Amanda took the broom and placed it against the snowman's left "arm". Then she looked at Spock who merely arched an eyebrow at her.
"I believe I can see the resemblance to a being now, Mother," Spock told her truthfully.
"Good. I was beginning to wonder," she smiled at him, then looked at the snowman critically. She rooted around in the box and found a tin of grey, metallic beads. They were supposed to be for baking, but you'd chip a tooth for sure if you bit into one. She took the beads and began to arrange them above the snowman's eyes. When she was finished, she moved back a pace and examined her handiwork. A mischievous smile tugged at her mouth. Perfect.
Spock examined his mother's latest addition and his eyebrow flicked up into his bangs. It was definitely starting to look like a person.
"You have completed your snowman, I see," Sarek's voice came from the porch. As he approached his wife and son, he finished wrapping his scarf around his neck, then pulled his knit cap tighter around his ears. Spock looked at his father, then back at the snowman. This time both of his eyebrows shot skyward.
"Yes, Father," Spock said, looking at his mother.
She winked at him, then smiled at her husband. "What do you think, Sarek?" Amanda asked, her blue eyes filled with mirth.
"It would appear to be an adequate construction," Sarek responded placidly.
"Remind you of anyone in particular?" Amanda pressed.
Sarek stood directly in front of the snowman and examined it closely for several seconds. "I do not believe so, my wife. However, the countenance is aesthetically pleasing," Sarek responded, the corner of his mouth twitching upward briefly as he scrutinized the snowman's slanted, swept-up eyebrows.
"Look at me," Nellie Grayson commanded from the porch steps. Three faces looked up with surprise as she pushed the button on her holopic device.
"Gotcha. It's about time I had a current family holopic," she said walking over to Amanda to show her the holopic output.
Amanda laughed out loud. Sarek peeked over her shoulder and his eyebrow traveled upward. Spock craned his neck for a view, and mirrored Sarek's response.
Perhaps there was some slight resemblance after all.
* * *
Once everyone was warmed up by tea or cocoa, the entire family sat in the living room, ready to exchange the presents.
"Oh, I didn't get the chance to do any shopping," Amanda said with disappointment.
Spock told her of the adventure he and Sarek had, and Amanda laughed out loud at his mention of the "shopping mission". How Vulcan, she thought.'Only Vulcans would refer to Christmas shopping as a mission. As he told Amanda the tale, Alfred snuck out of the house for a minute. When he came back, he winked at Sarek, who simply nodded his head in acknowledgment.
"Spock," Sarek said. "I would like to put you in charge of handing out the presents. Would that be acceptable to you?"
"Of course, Father," Spock said, his chest inflating ever so slightly at the responsibility he was given. He approached the brightly-lit tree, determining the most efficient way of handing out the parcels.
"Spock, just hand out a present until each of us has one. Then we'll open that one and when we're done, you can repeat the exercise until all the presents are gone," Amanda suggested.
Spock nodded his head, then handed out the parcels, one to each of them, himself included. They were instructed to wait until each had opened a present before the other started. "Why don't you start, Spock," his mother said. "Then we will go around the room."
Spock looked at the card. "It is from Grandfather and Grandmother," he announced. He carefully removed the wrapping.
"You're supposed to tear it, Spock," his grandfather advised. "It's tradition!" He sat back, chuckling. "The way you're doing it, we'll be here all night and the dinner will burn!"
Spock then tore off the remaining wrapping. Inside was a box. Opening the box, he saw artist's pencils, a sketchbook, and an odd looking brown object that appeared to be shaped like a hand. He removed the object, then it dawned on him what it was. He had seen one very similar to this and it belonged to his father. Digging around the tissue inside the box, he removed a round item that he knew was called a baseball. "Thank you Grandmother and Grandfather!" he breathed.
"You're welcome, Spock," his grandfather replied. "We'll have to put some oil on that glove to break it in. Here, let me see if it fits you right," he continued, showing Spock how to put the glove on his left hand. His grandfather took the baseball out of Spock's other hand and placed it in the web of the mitt. "I think it'll work," he finally pronounced.
Sarek was very pleased with Spock's present from his grandfather. Alfred Grayson had bought Sarek a baseball glove and had taught him how to play not long after Amanda first brought him home to visit them. Sarek's arm had never been so sore, but he kept practicing until he reached a passable level of skill. "Now we can indulge in the Terran custom of 'playing catch'," Sarek said. "I believe that you will find the physics quite fascinating, Spock. Particularly the dynamics of a curve-ball."
All the humans around the room rolled their eyes at Sarek's comment. "Only a Vulcan can take the joy out of baseball," Alfred muttered. The other humans chuckled, and the two Vulcans simply raised their eyebrows. That sent the others into gales of laughter.
Spock removed the glove from his hand and placed it reverently back in the box with the baseball. He picked up the container of drawing pencils and opened it. "I have never seen so many different colors in writing implements," Spock said.
"Writing implements?" Nellie Grayson snorted. "Those aren't for writing, Spock. They're for drawing."
"I do not know how to draw," Spock told her honestly.
"Well, you will after I give you a few pointers," his grandmother told him with a smile.
It was Alfred's turn to open his present. "It's from Spock, Sarek and Amanda," he said, tearing the wrapping off. When he finally unwrapped the gift, he stopped dead. His eyes brimmed with unshed tears as he lifted the book out of the box. "It's beautiful," he said softly, stroking the fine leather of the cover. "I've always wanted to get this, but the price." Holding it up, the gold lettering caught the lights from the tree. It read, The Winston Churchill Diaries. "Thank you. Thank you all." He stood up and kissed Amanda on the cheek, then nodded to the two Vulcans.
"I know of your regard for history," Sarek said. "I hope you find the reading pleasing."
"I will. And I'll think of you all when I do." He sat back down, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.
"My turn," Amanda said. "This is from my beloved son!" She ripped off the wrapping, and inside a little box, was a snowglobe. She lifted it from the box and shook it vigorously. There was a veritable blizzard inside the globe, covering the little farm within with "snow". Her laughter filled the room and Sarek's heart. Spock must have acquired this gift on his own while he was out with his grandfather.
"I know you miss the snow when you are on Vulcan, Mother. I thought you might like a reminder of it," Spock said, watching his mother's face.
Amanda got up from the chair and walked toward Spock, her hands crossed at the wrists. "I love it, Spock. It's beautiful. I don't know whatever happened to the one I used to have. I think it might have been a casualty in a dorm room party. But this one is much nicer. Thank you so much."
Spock crossed his hands in the same way and they touched palms in the Vulcan embrace. "You are welcome, Mother," he said softly.
"Well, I guess it's my turn now," Nellie said. "This is from Spock and family." Removing the gaily-colored paper, she opened the box inside. There she found a large canvas and about every shade of paint she could imagine. "Thank you so much," she effused. "This is perfect! I was just telling Spock that I was starting to get low in paint, but now, I can create a masterpiece! This was so thoughtful, I can't thank you enough!"
Amanda was pleased that her husband and son put so much thought into their gifts and only wished she could have gone on their "shopping mission" with them. Her Vulcans made her very proud. "It's your turn, Sarek," she said, nodding at him.
Sarek started to carefully remove the wrapping from his gift until Alfred cleared his throat nosily. "Ah, I forgot myself. I ask forgiveness," he said, his eyes twinkling. Tearing off the remaining wrapping, he opened the box inside. He pulled out a heavy knitted brown sweater and held it up against him. "It is perfect for this climate. I shall wear it with honor. Thank you Alfred and Nell. Your present honors me."
"Well, if it doesn't fit, you just let me know. I knitted it myself and Al picked out the yarn color. But I had to guess at your size," Nellie said.
"It is perfect the way it is. Again, I thank you," Sarek said, carefully putting it back in the box.
"Put it on," Alfred called out. "Let's see it on you!"
Sarek took off the overtunic he was wearing and put on the sweater. The sweater's neck came all the way up to his chin. It fit him very well and it was warm enough, even for a Vulcan. He sat down and took a sip of his tea.
"Suits ya. Looks like I was right about the color, too," Alfred said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "Okay, Spock, start handing out more presents."
There were several presents still under the tree, and the one addressed to Spock was huge! When the next round had been passed out, Spock sat down.
"Open yours first, Spock," Amanda said. "I can hardly wait to see what's in there!"
Spock tore off the wrapping paper and stared at the box in amazement. It was a telescope that had a motor on it to counter the Earth's rotation. "Thank you, Father and Mother. It is perfect! Now I can observe the stars when I wish to. May I set this up in my room at the Embassy, Father?"
"We will set it up in a suitable location for viewing, Spock. Perhaps one of the balconies would be more acceptable. I know you will not sleep much if it is in your room," he said, knowing his son's curiosity.
"As you wish, Father. I thank you for this present," Spock said formally, then quickly crossed the room with his hands in the Vulcan embrace. Sarek responded in kind, then Spock repeated the gesture to his mother, who returned it with a smile.
Nellie opened her present next. "This is from Al. I wonder what it could be?" she asked, her eyes twinkling. Inside the wrapping, she stared at the box. "Can it be? It is!" she exclaimed. "Where did you get this, Al? I've been looking all over for it. I thought it had been discontinued."
"What is it, Grandmother?" Spock asked, his curiosity overwhelming him.
"My favorite perfume. I haven't been able to find this for the longest time." She walked over to her husband and hugged him hard. "Thank you, Al," she breathed into his ear. "Thank you so much."
"I'm glad I could finally give her a gift she likes," Al said to Sarek, teasing his wife openly.
"Oh, you," she said, waving her hand as if to dismiss him. "Don't pay any attention to him, Sarek." She sat down and opened the perfume box. She took out the bottle and sprayed some on the inside of her wrist. Putting her wrist under Amanda's nose, she said, "Smell this. Isn't it wonderful?"
"Mmm, it sure is," Amanda said, nodding.
"Grandfather, it is your turn now," Spock said.
"So it is. Well, lemme see who this is from. Ah, it's from Nell." He tore off the wrapping and took the lid off the box. Inside was nothing but tissue paper. "Are you sure you didn't just give me an empty box?" he asked.
"I'm sure. Just look around a little, you old coot."
Inside, Al found a book. The title read The Official Rules of the National Football League. Al threw his head back and laughed heartily. "What are you trying to say, Nell?" he chortled.
"Perhaps if you read the rules, you wouldn't yell so much at the vid unit when you watch the games. Sometimes you could wake up the dead. But that's not all in that box. Keep looking," she said with a smile.
His curiosity piqued, he rummaged around the tissue paper a bit more. Finally, he felt some small cardboard pieces. Pulling them out of the box, he sat back in his chair, his eyes wide. "God bless you, Nell."
Amanda leaned forward in her chair and asked what it was.
"Why, it's two tickets to the next Vikings football game!" he said. Turning to Nell, he said, "Wanna come, beautiful?"
"Oh no, thanks. You take Paul, and his wife and I will shop when you go to the game. That works for me, and I've already discussed it with Beth, so, it's all arranged. Merry Christmas, Al."
He got up, went over and kissed her on the cheek. "I'll save my real thanks for later," he whispered.
"Mother, it is your turn now," Spock announced.
"It's from Mother and Father." She removed the wrapping and opened the box. Inside was a gold necklace with a round, gold charm attached to it. On the charm was an etching. Looking closely, she noticed that it was an etching of a holopic she and Sarek had on their bedroom wall in ShiKahr. It was taken when Spock was only two months old and was of the entire family. Sarek was in his finest robes, looking down at his son and wife. Amanda was gazing lovingly at her elfin son. "Oh, it's beautiful," she whispered, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. "Where did you get the picture?"
"Oh, we have our ways. The Vulcan Ambassador isn't the only one around here who can pull a few strings. We took a holopic of the one in your bedroom last time we were there. We wanted to wait until everyone was here for Christmas before we gave it to you. Y'know, make it special," Alfred said.
Amanda ran to her parents and hugged them hard. "Thank you so very much. It's perfect. Just like this Christmas! I love you both!"
"Father, it is your turn again," Spock said as watched his mother return to her chair and put on the necklace.
Sarek unwrapped his gift, then sat back in his chair, staring into the box. "What is it?" Amanda asked.
"This." He pulled it out of the box and Amanda gasped softly. He held up a beautifully framed holopic of Amanda and him standing side by side near the barn, Amanda's arms wrapped around his waist, her head resting on his shoulder. Sarek's arm was casually around her shoulders. "How did you get this picture, Spock? I do not recall it being taken," Sarek asked with wonder in his voice.
"Grandmother provided the holopic," Spock told him. Sarek looked at his mother-in-law.
"Gotcha. You two were so wrapped up in one another that you didn't even notice me. The only way I could get you to relax for a proper picture was to sneak up on you, Vulcan," Nellie Grayson said proudly.
"Indeed," Sarek said softly, remembering the smell of clover from the fields that day. The weather had been perfect. The entire day had been perfect. Amanda had agreed to become his bondmate.
"Grandfather assisted me with choosing the frame. That is why I had to go into town with him. Does it please you, Father?"
"More than you can image, my son." Sarek rose and embraced his son in the custom of his people. "Your gift not only honors me, but your mother as well. I thank you, Spock, for both of us." Sarek sat back down and stroked the holopic, then returned to his usual formality. He gently placed the picture back into the box for safekeeping.
There is one more present under the tree," Spock said, handing it to his mother.
"Oh dear, this is too much," she said. "It seems to be from the two of you." She opened the gaily-wrapped box and took a sharp breath in, her eyes widening in pleasure. "Oh, Sarek," she breathed. "It's beautiful. And thank you, too, Spock. What an unusual design. I've never seen anything like it." She removed a ring that had four stones inset in a gold band that curved in a delicate S-shape.
Spock stood up and went to stand by Amanda's side. "I will explain the significance of the stones if you wish, Mother."
"Okay, Spock. What is their significance?"
"This stone is one that corresponds to Father's birthday if he was born on Earth. The next one is your birthday, the following one is your wedding day, and the final one is my birthday if I was born on Earth. You see, it is quite logical."
Amanda smiled at her son's pronouncement and the other humans chuckled softly. Sarek just looked bemused. "Yes, Spock. It is not only logical, but very beautiful." She placed it on the ring finger of her right hand and gazed at it. "It fits perfectly!" she said, showing it to her parents.
"Well, that looks like that's all the presents," Amanda said, rising from her chair. "I just want to say one thing, if I may. I didn't expect to be here for Christmas, but because of my loving family, I am. I just want to apologize for not being able to give you any gifts," she said, sadly. "But it looks like my husband and son did very well on their own," she added, trying to brighten her mood.
"Amanda," Sarek said, standing. "Your very presence in this room is all the gift we could want. To have our family together on this important Terran day is all we could wish for. But you are mistaken in saying that all the gifts have been handed out. I shall return in a minute. Please wait for me." With that, both Sarek and Alfred left the room, Sarek going upstairs and Alfred going outside.
"What are they up to, I wonder?" Amanda mused.
"Never mind what they're up to. Just enjoy it," her mother admonished with a grin.
Sarek and Alfred returned at about the same time. "Remember what I taught you, Sarek, and you should be fine," Alfred said with a wink.
"I shall endeavor to do so." He turned to Amanda and handed her a large rectangular box wrapped in bright blue paper.
Amanda ripped off the wrapping paper and bow and slid the lid off of the box. Inside was a midnight-blue velvet cloak, with soft white trim "Oh, it's beautiful, Sarek! I won't have much cause to wear it in San Francisco, but it will be perfect here. Thank you so much!" Amanda held up the cloak to admire it.
"There is something else that is an accessory for it in the box, Amanda," Sarek pointed out.
"Oh! I didn't even see it with all the white tissue paper," Amanda exclaimed, lifting a snow-white muff out of the box. "It's gorgeous! And so soft," Amanda said, lightly running her hand over the muff.
"I am glad that it pleases you, my wife. I also have one other thing to share with you. Would you please put it on now while I get my coat and wrappings?"
Curious, Amanda complied with his request. When Sarek returned, he stopped in his tracks, his eyes drinking in the sight. The deep blue hue of the cloak made Amanda's eyes appear to have a tiny blue flame dancing inside them, and the white trim of the cloak's hood perfectly outlined the delicate features of her face. Sarek offered his arm to her and they strode out the front door.
There, she saw Tilly hitched up to a sleigh that was decorated with garlands. The harness on the horse had jingling bells attached to it and there was a warm, thick blanket in the sleigh, waiting for them.
"After you, T'sai," Sarek said as he led her to the waiting sleigh.
"You're nuts, Sarek. What do you know about driving horses?"
"Only what your father taught me. I believe I understand the mechanics of the process. He assured me that you know how to do it as well, if I find myself out of my league. Will you accompany me on a sleigh ride?"
"Certainly, sir," she said as she climbed in. Sarek got in on the other side and gently slapped the reins against the horse's back. Tilly obediently moved forward at a walk.
Alfred called from the front door. "Not too long, kids! Dinner is only about an hour away!"
As they went down the driveway, Amanda snuggled against her husband and slipped her hands out of the muff so that she could wrap her arms around his slender waist. "I love you, Sarek. Thank you for the most perfect Christmas I've ever had."
Sarek looked at her and smiled. Not the small smile he usually gave her, but a real smile. "Merry Christmas, my wife. Merry Christmas."