Spock looked up from the advanced astrophysics textbook he was proof-reading for a distinguished Tellarite colleague as two familiar human voices drifted on the delightful breeze towards him.
“It’s just not the same,” Jim was complaining. “I mean, it’s just… not.”
“Nope,” came Doctor McCoy’s growl.
Jim reacted as if this had been a full and meaningful contribution to the conversation, providing much fodder for discussion. “I know! Turkey, man! There should be turkey! And snow! How do you make snow angels without snow? It’s depressing.”
“If I have to do Christmas without my Jo, and without goddamn winter, the gods could at least grant me the boon of good booze. Bartender here ain’t ever heard of a mint julep. And you can bet I’m gonna be spending at least half my shore-leave treating jellyfish stings and sunburn.”
“You know,” Jim said, “if we climbed a tall enough mountain, we might find some snow…”
“And die horribly in an avalanche, or a fall into some fathoms-deep ravine, or get turned into chew toys when you decide it’s a fine idea to pet the nice friendly mountain lion—”
Spock tuned out Jim’s complaints that his CMO lacked any sense of adventure. Instead, he attempted to process the rampant illogic of these two insisting that the crew have shore-leave during the last seven days of the old Terran year and the first day of the new only to complain about trivial features of meteorological conditions on the shore-leave world to which the ship was consequently assigned. The rest of the crew, to the best of Spock’s knowledge, were making satisfactory use of their time here. Sulu and Chekov, for instance, were attending a local swordplay conference. Yeoman Rand had requisitioned a case of watercolour paints from the quartermaster and hiked off into the forest. Lieutenant Uhura, of course, was happily conversing with the locals. At least thirty crewmen had expressed a wish to frolic on the beaches. (Mister Scott remained in orbit, cheerfully retrofitting the plasma injectors with allegedly superior designs of his own invention.) Only these two seemed unhappy.
Spock dismissed the book proofs from his padd, calling up information about Terran end-of-calendar-year customs instead.
“Are we there yet?” Jim demanded, not for the first time.
“Idiot,” Doctor McCoy offered. “We’re still walking, aren’t we?”
“I hear the sea,” Jim commented. “You think Spock’s taking us to a nudie beach?”
“I doubt it, kid. Are you sure you put on enough sunblock?”
“Yes, Mom. Are we there yet?”
Spock hastened his steps.
“It’s a beach,” Jim said.
Spock ignored the tone, led the two unerringly to the area where the hotel staff had provided his requested shaded seating arrangement and stay-fresh food hamper. He sat. It was difficult to retain good posture in the canvas recliner, so after a moment’s hesitation Spock permitted himself to fall back into an undignified, but unexpectedly comfortable, sprawl. The humans stared at him a moment, then took the matching chairs on either side. Spock adjusted the awning to provide better protection for their eyes from the sun’s UV rays. The heat and humidity he found most pleasant, reminiscent of his lost Shi’kahr on a spring evening. In the distance, a pair of human females cavorted in the waves.
“This isn’t so bad,” Doctor McCoy allowed.
“As closely as they can be approximated by the resort staff, Doctor, I believe you will find the makings of a mint julep in that hamper.”
The good doctor slipped down onto a colourful beach towel spread on the sand to open the hamper. “Well, now,” he said. “Turkey sandwiches too?”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “It seemed a climate-appropriate interpretation of your customs.”
“And this thing,” McCoy said, holding up a frosted food container to the light and peering at it. “The vegetarian option, I’m guessing?”
“Pumpkin and yam salad with cranberry sauce.”
McCoy snorted, clearly amused.
“Weird,” Jim said. In Spock’s view, he already sounded more cheerful.
“There are also some of the local chestnut variety. These I have been advised to roast on an open fire after nightfall.”
“Okay, that’s kinda cool,” Jim admits.
Leonard McCoy rolls his eyes. “Yeah, Jim, of course you’re in favour of setting things on fire.”
“Food appears to be a vital part of the traditional ‘Christmas’ and ‘Hanukkah’ celebrations,” Spock observed, “though by no means the most important. Which—all branches, creeds, sects, movements, and denominations seem to agree—would be time spent with family and friends.”
“You got that right,” McCoy affirmed, with what Spock believed might best be termed wistfulness.
Spock’s communicator beeped. “Excuse me a moment,” he said, and answered it. “Spock here.”
“We’re good to go, Commander,” came the voice of Weiss, the ship’s third most senior communications officer.
“My thanks, Ensign. Spock out.” He directed his attention back to the doctor. “To that end, if you would extract the comm padd from that hamper, you will find that a call has been patched through to Earth. It is approximately dawn on the twenty-fifth of December in Georgia, and a Miss Joanna McCoy is awake and eager to speak to you.” He was sure he did not need to mention just how difficult this had been to arrange.
For a long moment, Leonard McCoy only stared at him. Then he swallowed, nodded heavily, and scrabbled for the padd.
“Oh, I don’t think there’s anything in that little bag for me,” Jim said, in a strange tone, as the sound of Doctor McCoy’s voice, unusually emotional even for him, retreated into the distance.
“Sand angels,” Spock said.
“Sand angels, Jim. We have no snow, but I believe sand will serve. Would you care to demonstrate the procedure?”
Jim stared at him. “You, Spock? You’re going to help me make sand angels?”
“Yes, Jim. A small loss of decorum seems, from my research, not inappropriate to the occasion.”
“I could kiss you!” Jim cried, clapping his hands and lurching up out of his chair.
Spock found he would not object if Jim did kiss him, so he said nothing.